Re-Entry and Second Chance Programs for Ex-Offenders Will Increase in Importance for Employers

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Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

A study on the criminal background of workers and job performance released in October of 2016 by Northwestern University found that ex-offenders who had criminal records were no worse as employees in the workplace than non-offenders. The fact that re-entry programs and second chance programs  will increase as more employers discover ex-offenders make good employees as well as focus on Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) Compliance  is Trend Number 2 in the Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) 10th annual ‘ESR Top Ten Background Check Trends’ for 2017.

“The concern with ex-offenders from the employer’s point of view is that a person with a criminal past may have the propensity to re-offend in the future. On the other hand, society also has a vested interest in helping ex-offenders with past criminal records obtain and maintain employment. It is difficult for ex-offenders to become law-abiding, tax-paying citizens without a job. Unless society wants to continue to spend its tax dollars on building more and more jails and prisons, ex-offenders need a second chance to rejoin the workforce and re-entry programs can help,” says ESR founder and CEO Attorney Lester Rosen. The list featuring emerging and influential trends in the background check industry for 2017 will be available at www.esrcheck.com/ESR-Top-Ten-Background-Check-Trends.

According to Rosen, one of the critical functions performed by employment screening firms is to provide employers with accurate and actionable information that can be used to make informed hiring decisions and assist with compliance with the ‘Enforcement Guidance on the Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964’ issued by the EEOC in April 2012. Rosen observed: “There is a job for everyone but not everyone is entitled to every job. On the one hand, without background checks and the exercising of due diligence in hiring, employers are sitting ducks for workplace issues and litigation. However, employers have an obligation to use the information in a fair and non-discriminatory fashion consistent with the EEOC Guidance on the use of criminal records.”

As reported by ESR News, researchers at Northwestern University released a study entitled ‘Criminal Background and Job Performance’ that found ex-offenders with criminal records had “an involuntary separation rate that is no higher than that of other employees and a voluntary separation rate that is much lower.” The study – authored by Dylan Minor and Nicola Persico of the Northwestern University Kellogg School of Management, and Deborah M. Weiss or the Northwestern University School of Law – found ex-offenders with criminal records to “be no worse, and possibly even better” than workers without criminal records.

The researchers examined the records of over one million applicants to jobs such as customer service and sales representatives collected between 2008 and 2014 and found approximately 264,000 applicants with criminal records who were less likely to get hired for these jobs and more likely to head back to prison. Statistics from the study show over 650,000 offenders are released from U.S. prisons each year (Carson and Golinelli 2013), over half of released prisoners are re-convicted within three years (Durose, Cooper, and Snyder 2014), and failure to find work can cause recidivism (Uggen and Shannon 2014; Yang 2016). According to the study: Job applicants with criminal records are much less likely than others to obtain legitimate employment. Recent audit studies suggest that lower human capital alone does not fully explain this difference, and that employers apply a hiring penalty to job applicants with a criminal record.

Researchers looked at “why hiring firms impose a hiring penalty and whether their concerns are founded on an accurate view of how ex-offenders behave on the job if hired.” Since “little empirical evidence” exists, the study tried to answer these questions by looking at hiring practices and performance outcomes. Despite data indicating workers with criminal records had “a psychological profile different from other employees, with fewer characteristics that are associated with good job performance outcomes,” these workers generally performed the same in the workplace as workers who had no criminal record.

However, researchers did find ex-offenders with criminal records had “a slightly higher overall rate of discharge for misconduct than do employees without a record, although we find increased misconduct only for sales positions.” There was no increased risk for customer service workers. The study also found that “firms that do not use information about criminal backgrounds seem to compensate by placing more weight on qualifications that are correlated with a criminal record, such as low educational attainment.”

The findings “indicate the need for some caution about drafting Ban-the-Box provisions that restrict the use that employers make of a criminal record once it is revealed” and Ban-the-Box requires “a better understanding of the predictive value of a criminal record for misconduct.” The study concluded “those with a criminal record are less likely to quit their job voluntarily, and no more likely to leave it involuntarily,” and “workers with a criminal background appear to be no worse, and possibly even better, than workers without such a background.”

The study stated: In terms of policy recommendations, we must stress the need for additional work. At present we have no way of balancing the benefits of the longer tenure of workers with a criminal record against the potential costs of their higher rate of misconduct discharges. The study “Criminal Background and Job Performance” by Dylan Minor, Nicola Persico, and Deborah M. Weiss of Northwestern University is available for download on the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) at https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2851951.

In November 2016, ESR News reported that a member of a registered nonprofit organization called HOPE for Prisoners that helps ex-offenders “transition out of prison to reenter society successfully” says that workers with past criminal records “work harder than other employees” and “truly value their jobs,” according to the article “Should You Hire An Ex-Con?” that is available on the Forbes.com website.

“People who have served their time for a crime have an extensive file on who they are and where they have been. They work harder than other employees, show up to work early, stay later, accept overtime, ask for more work, do more, and truly value their jobs,” Arte Nathan, a member of the board of HOPE for Prisoners, told the author of the article, Forbes Contributor Louis Efron. The article explains how HOPE for Prisoners “facilitates reentry and reintegration services to men, women, and young adults who are exiting various segments of the judicial system” so that “ex-offenders returning to the community can overcome the many barriers to successful living that the incarceration experience can create.” Only 6 percent of people involved with the program return to prison.

As an example, the article stated that while statistics show 75 percent of inmates released from prison go back eventually, only 7 percent of ex-offenders Nathan hired for Wynn Hotels as the longtime HR partner to casino mogul Steve Wynn returned to prison, a reduction of 68 percent. Nathan talked more giving ex-offenders an opportunity to work in a YouTube video. The article also cited a five-year study by Johns Hopkins Medicine of almost 500 ex-offenders hired showed a lower turnover for the first 40 months versus non-offenders. A close study of 79 ex-offenders with serious records for three to six years found that 73 were still employed at Johns Hopkins at the end of the study period with only one involuntary termination.

In addition, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) “has fully adopted Hope’s mission and vision and participates in every aspect of its programming.” Police officers and officials serve as mentors for ex-offenders during the 18-month program “so that no graduate ever feels alone” and “monthly graduations are held at police headquarters.” The article also states that businesses hiring ex-offenders may be eligible for a federal tax credit of $1,200 to $9,600 per qualifying employee. Businesses may also benefit from a Federal Bonding Program that provides six months of coverage at no cost to protect against employee theft or dishonesty ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 for employers hiring “at-risk, hard-to-place job seekers.”

Operating since 2009, HOPE for Prisoners was formally established as an independent non-profit organization in January 2012 to encourage and impart hope to ex-offenders re-entering society. The complete article “Should You Hire An Ex-Con?” is available on the Forbes.com website at www.forbes.com/sites/louisefron/2016/11/17/should-you-hire-an-ex-con/#4c1617225d24.

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – a leading global background check provider – offers a complimentary whitepaper written by ESR Founder and CEO Attorney Lester Rosen entitled Ten Critical Steps for Ex-Offenders to Get Back into the Workforce to help job applicants with criminal records find work and re-enter society. Download the whitepaper by clicking the button below. The whitepaper is available at www.esrcheck.com/Whitepapers/Ten-Steps-for-Ex-Offenders-to-Get-Back-in-Workforce/.

ESR Top Ten Background Check Trends for 2017 Webinar

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) founder and CEO Attorney Lester Rosen will host a live complimentary webinar entitled ‘ESR Top Ten Background Check Trends for 2017’ on Wednesday, January 18, 2017, from 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM Noon Pacific Time. To register for the free webinar, please visit https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/733293271056375556.

The webinar is approved for 1.0 (HR (General)) recertification credit hours toward PHR, SPHR, and GPHR recertification through the HR Certification Institute (HRCI). The webinar is worth 1.0 Professional Development Credit (PDC) from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) for the SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM-CP™) and SHRM Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP™).

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