NEARLY 77 MILLION AMERICANS HAVE HAD AN INTERACTION WITH THE CRIMINAL
JUSTICE SYSTEM — or one
out of every three adults. These individuals often have a hard
time finding work, with 27%
of ex-offenders unemployed in 2018 compared to just 3.9%
of the general population that same year. The problem has only grown
since the COVID-19 pandemic, with almost
60% of formerly incarcerated people out of work at the beginning
Formerly incarcerated people — on the road toward
rehabilitation but facing obstacles to getting their lives back on
track — not only deserve a second chance at employment, but also
represent a massive candidate pool for the American workforce where
hourly workers are in high demand. As organizations evaluate these
candidates they often consider that hiring ex-offenders comes with
the risk that they re-offend, which may hurt a company’s reputation
or potentially risk the safety of customers and other employees.
Fair chance hiring, a movement which supports conducting
criminal background checks as late in the hiring process as
possible, is a practice that can provide millions of Americans a
second chance at work while still giving employers the confidence
that they are not exposing their business to avoidable risk.
The importance of background checks
A background check is a critical part of many organizations’
hiring processes, as employers have an obligation to comprehensively
assess a candidate’s criminal history before extending a job offer.
Additionally, employers in certain industries may need background
checks to ensure the person they are hiring has not committed a crime
related to that industry, like a DUI conviction for a bus driver or a
financial theft conviction for a potential bank employee.
Understandably, employers are sensitive to these considerations when
hiring those with a criminal record.
However, with nearly 11
million job openings and only 5.7 million job seekers, employers
need to balance previous hiring practices with the historically tight
labor market. Employers should not prematurely exclude the 19 million
Americans with felony convictions and the tens of millions with
misdemeanors or other interactions with the justice system.
By conducting a background check after a candidate has
completed essential steps in the hiring process, employers can help
ensure a reasonable evaluation of the applicant’s skills has
occurred before assessing their criminal history. This helps reduce
implicit bias and offers formerly incarcerated individuals a
meaningful chance at employment.
Benefits of fair chance hiring
Newly released individuals face many challenges as they try
to reenter society and bias in the employment process makes it
harder for them to find work and establish financial stability. Not
having a job is associated
with a higher rate of recidivism, meaning that stable employment
is a crucial part of helping these individuals reintegrate into
society and lowers the likelihood that they will reoffend. Studies
show that fair chance hiring practices raise the probability of
employment for those with convictions by about 30%
and have increased
employment rates of residents in high-crime neighborhoods, where
workers with criminal records are more likely to live.
In addition to reducing recidivism and providing financial
stability to at-risk populations, fair chance hiring also provides
employers a unique opportunity to fill vacant jobs, tap into a more
diverse workforce, and reduce employee turnover. It can also be a
strong complement to a business’s environment, social, and corporate
governance (ESG) efforts.
From incarceration to employment
Fair chance hiring policies and procedures do not eliminate
the need for robust criminal background checks, as it is in every
employer’s interest to ensure a safe workplace for both customers and
other employees. But they can also be powerful tools to help formerly
incarcerated individuals turn their lives around for the better, end a
cycle of recidivism, and get back on track to living their financial best.
To learn more about the benefits of Fair Chance Hiring
efforts, and how to enact these types of policies while still
mitigating risk, visit the Equifax Newsroom to learn more here