As the economy improves, businesses struggle to find qualified workers who have the hard and soft skills to get the job done. The non-violent ex-offender population is in the upwards of tens of thousands of willing workers. According to the Bureau of National Affairs (BNA), PA has roughly 281,400 people who are either on Probation or Parole. The Obama administration has created a plan to help people who have been incarcerated, with an ever-growing number of employers pledging to hire applicants who have criminal backgrounds. This will help reduce some of the many barriers, such as finding housing and employment, returning citizens face when they are released back into society.

Many employers are still uncomfortable about hiring individuals who convicted a crime, although there is a push for change at the Federal and Local levels. Many employers who have taken the initiative to hire ex-criminals have stated that they can be excellent employees with an superior work ethic. However, employers have also mentioned that this is not always the case, and that other issues such as housing conflicts and mental health issues can create barriers to satisfactory work performance. 

Despite those concerns, an increasing amount of employers are signing the Fair Chance Business Pledge, even local employers such as the University of Pennsylvania. As of now, there are 185 employers representing more than 3 million workers that have signed a “Fair Chance Business Pledge”. The list of employers includes Wal-Mart, DropBox, American Airlines, Koch, Microsoft, Xerox and Unilever. These companies are “dedicated to protecting freedom and expanding opportunity for every American; no matter where they live, what they do or how much money they have.”

Johns Hopkins Hospital implemented a model to hiring previously incarcerated citizens. They employee almost 10,000 people, and between 5-10% have been incarcerated at some point (BNA). To avoid bias, background check results are not shared with departments or hiring managers unless there is something that the manager must be aware of. The recruitment team at Johns Hopkins considers the length and type of convictions, if it has a bearing on the job duties of the position, age when the crime took place and honesty of the applicant when they applied.

Employers still need to think of the safety of other employees, clients, patients or visitors. Charges such as assault are taken very seriously and employers will not hire someone with a charge that has a direct relation to the job. About one in three adults have a criminal record, which means employers will see a huge increase in their candidate pool if they decide to loosen their background requirements. Would you consider hiring candidates with a criminal background?

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