May 12, 2021
A new bill making it easier for people with criminal records to get employed was recently adopted in Louisiana. The bill, called The Fair Chance in Hiring Act (HB 480), aims to tweak the employment screening process not to automatically reject individuals whose arrests did not result in convictions. As for existing convictions, further consideration of the nature of the conviction is encouraged as well as its effect on the hiring outcome.
The bill was introduced by Rep. Matt Willard from New Orleans, with the press release stating, “At a time when businesses are struggling to find workers, HB 480 would expand the pool of applicants by limiting both procedural barriers and reducing fear and stigma among formerly incarcerated job applicants who might be discouraged from applying for jobs they are qualified for for fear they will suffer a humiliating rejection when the employer runs a background check.”
Background checks are a standard part of the hiring process in the US. They are conducted in many industries and states, such as California, Florida, Nevada, Washington, and Pennsylvania, to name a few.
These checks serve to help employers detect any past behavior that might not align with their company’s policies. With that said, many have used these checks as an excuse to discriminate against people with a criminal background, leaving them jobless.
The State of Former Inmates
It’s no secret that people with a criminal record struggle with employment, especially those who have done jail time. Although they have served their sentence, their punishment continues even after they’ve left their cell, making their return to “regular” life even harder.
A 2018 analysis showed that the unemployment rate for formerly incarcerated people was 27%. More recent reports have stated that these individuals have been struggling with job hunting even more during the ongoing pandemic.
COVID-19 has caused unemployment rates to skyrocket (peaking at 14.8% in April 2020), and former inmates haven’t been spared. Even as the economy is slowly on the road to recovery and employment opportunities are increasing, those with a criminal past are still met with closed doors and rejection by employers.
Criminal background checks are an important factor in the high unemployment rate of ex-convicts. Still, other factors, such as gender, race, and historically lower education, also influence the outcome of their job applications.
One of the most important factors for living or even surviving each day is having a job. However, getting a job is a struggle for many Americans, resulting in many of them turning towards illegal income. Making it harder for former inmates to get a job only pushes them back to old habits and perpetuates the cycle of crime.