Finding a Job with a Record
Finding a good job is often difficult enough, but finding one with a criminal record can be nearly impossible. Depending on local, state and federal laws, criminal charges showing up in a background check can be a red flag for a future employer, an apartment manager or even for some lending institutions.
Battling Regulations to Find Work
A study by the Urban Institute and run by The Crime Report suggests that roughly one in three Americans have criminal records of some sort, and that nationwide there are some 45,142 local regulations for "justice-involved people." The effects of being denied decent employment because of a criminal record can be devastating, especially on those recently released from jail or prison.
Too Many Records, Not Enough Jobs
The United States leads the country with the number of incarcerated citizens. The National Reentry Resource Center (NRRC ), an organization run by The Council of State Governments Justice Center, reports that 2.2 million people were incarcerated in federal, state and local correctional facilities in 2015, with roughly 4.7 million on probation or parole. NRRC estimates 641,100 people in state and federal prisons were released in 2015, and more than 9 million individuals in all jails were released.
Part of the issue of prisoners being released is the ability to find meaningful work. Without enough money to reenter mainstream society, the fear is that, because of their inability to make a living, to support families or even themselves, former convicts will return to crime for economic reasons. The statistics seem to prove this true. The NRRC reports that in a previous study, 67.8 percent of inmates were arrested within three years of being released, and 76.6 percent were arrested within five years. The rate is fifty percent higher for youth.
Decent Work for Decent Pay
The issue is as at least partially work-related. The jobs available to individuals with criminal records that include prison time generally pay minimum wage or little more. And restrictions are not just with jobs. NRRC reports that in 2016, 6.1 million people were prohibited from voting because of their records; 13 states fully prohibit anyone with a drug-related conviction from receiving public assistance, while 23 states have a partial ban. The organization also reports 27,254 occupational licensing restrictions, meaning that even for ex-convicts who do have job training or education, many of those jobs are closed off to them as well.
Some Checks Don't go Far Enough
The Urban Institute suggests that part of the issue with ex-cons finding jobs isn't the efficiency of background checks, but just the opposite. Background checks don't generally disclose the full story of someone's criminal record, meaning the blanket term "criminal" may be responsible for holding individuals back from jobs that would otherwise hire them. The relevant information that an applicant's criminal history doesn't have bearing on the particular job they are applying for simply isn't available, or isn't available quickly enough.
Not Just Former Inmates
A 2015 story from USA Today highlights the fact that job-hunting isn't difficult only for ex-convicts, but for anyone with a criminal record. In Tennessee, like in many other states, unless expunged, charges for criminal offenses for any crime remains in the system. This created a backlog so that 128,000 citizens accused of 350,000 cases from 2005-2015 had criminal records which showed up on background checks. To remove the records, it's often necessary to go to the courthouse and have the records physically expunged, something those not familiar with the system don't realize is possible.
There are programs that help individuals with a checkered past, including counseling, hiring services, tax exemptions and even bonding available, but until the system is overhauled, the future may continue to be difficult for those wishing to make a fresh start.
Wolfe & Stec takes pride in serving the legal needs of the Greater Chicagoland area and the surrounding counties from our offices in Chicago and Woodridge. We have the knowledge and experience you need for criminal defense cases, and look forward to helping you create the best defense possible. If you have questions or would like to set up a free consultation, contact us online or call: 630.305.0222.