I’ve received some criticism for my views on this. Commenters seem to have read right over that I said in my column: “Employers have a right to check the backgrounds of potential workers to ensure they are hiring competent employees who will not jeopardize the safety of their workers or customers.”
One commenter wrote: “So the government and writers are going to tell a business which employee’s criminal charges shouldn’t matter for which jobs. The best way not to be denied a job because of criminal history is not to commit one.”
Here’s the reality. People get out of prison. If they don’t find work they are more likely to commit a crime again. Having a job is one of the leading factors in preventing ex-offenders from ending up back in prison. So we have to figure out a way to create jobs for the formerly incarcerated. Removing the criminal history question from the application doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be asked. It just gives ex-offenders a chance to explain their past and gives them a chance to compete for jobs.
Others understood my point:
Tonyaa Weathersbee, a columnist for the Florida-Times Union, responded on Facebook: “It’s great that you’re counseling soon-to-be released inmates on their finances, Michelle. It’s too bad that the system hasn’t caught up with you when it comes to giving second chances.”
Patrice Jones said, “Tell them a barrier isn’t an impossibility.”
Desiree French @FrenchWomanDC tweeted: “Kudos 4 lending r voice & expertise 2 a worthy cause. #Ex-offenders who did time paid their debt to society & now have rights 2”
Carolyn McClanahan @CarolynMcC tweeted, “Too many good people doomed by 1 early stupid mistake”
Jeannine Hunter @jeanninehunter simply wrote, “they do deserve second chances”
I’ve been following this issue for a few years. In 2010, I worked with two inmates to try to help them make better financial choices. I wrote about their challenges and failures, which you can read by clicking on the links below.
Color of Money Challenge: Soon-to-be-former inmates ready to rebuild their lives
Ex-offenders struggle to find work, overcome employers’ doubts