A recent article in The Economist discusses complications of hiring ex-offenders. Although many employers prefer not to hire convicted felons, choosing another candidate can open them up to discrimination lawsuits. As the article notes, “Employers face a dilemma. They cannot simply ignore applicants’ criminal histories. State and federal laws bar some felons from certain jobs, such as airport security or working with children or the elderly. And businesses risk lawsuits if they hire an ex-offender who harms or steals from a customer. Yet because black and Hispanic Americans are much more likely to have been convicted of a crime than whites or Asians, firms that screen out felons risk being accused of racism.”
Dr. Shawn Bushway, a criminologist at the University at Albany-SUNY, says that “the type of crime a job applicant has committed is often less relevant than how long ago he committed it”. Young, one-time offenders are more likely to commit another crime than someone who has never been convicted, but the more time elapsed, the less likely a relapse is to occur.
Society as a whole suffers when ex-convicts cannot find work, as they do not contribute to overall economic growth, cannot pay compensation to their victims, and are more likely to draw welfare. One easy step to preventing this burden is reducing the rampant amount of overcriminalization present today.
The Texas legislature recently took a step in this direction and passed HB 1188, which provides liability relief to employers who hire ex-offenders. TPPF helped develop this bill and cheered its passage through the legislature.