Criminal Records and Employment

April 20, 2012 • Volume 22, Issue 15
Should barriers be eased for ex-prisoners?
By Peter Katel


Ex-offender Urick Phillips works at Goodwill Industries (AP Photo/The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett)
Ex-offender Urick Phillips works at Goodwill Industries in Colorado Springs on March 2, 2011. He and other former prisoners in the area receive health care services from a local nonprofit. (AP Photo/The Gazette/Jerilee Bennett)

Many former prisoners are turned away from jobs because of their criminal records. The federal government, more than 30 cities and at least 26 states limit the kind of criminal-background information employers can obtain or when they can request it. Advocates for ex-prisoners say such restrictions don't go far enough in making it easier for former offenders to find work. But employers note that they can be sued for failing to check out an employee who harms fellow workers or customers. Further complicating the picture is new research suggesting that an old criminal history doesn't predict behavior. Meanwhile, the vast majority of the 92 million criminal records covering an estimated 65 million people are accessible online. And companies selling criminal histories may number in the thousands.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
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Feb. 10, 2017  Forensic Science Controversies
Feb. 05, 2016  Restorative Justice
Jan. 30, 2015  Central American Gangs
Aug. 29, 2014  Transnational Crime
Aug. 09, 2013  Sexual Assault in the Military
Oct. 26, 2012  Mexico's Future
Apr. 20, 2012  Criminal Records and Employment
Apr. 19, 2011  Honor Killings
Sep. 2010  Crime in Latin America
Jul. 16, 2010  Gangs in the U.S.
Jul. 17, 2009  Examining Forensics
Apr. 17, 2009  Wrongful Convictions Updated
Feb. 08, 2008  Fighting Crime
Oct. 11, 2002  Corporate Crime
Apr. 04, 1997  Declining Crime Rates
Dec. 10, 1982  Arson: America's Most Costly Crime
May 07, 1982  Helping Victims of Crime
Mar. 13, 1981  Violent Crime's Return to Prominence
Jul. 15, 1977  Crime Reduction: Reality or Illusion
Jan. 19, 1972  Crime of Rape
Jan. 22, 1969  Street Crime in America
Jan. 17, 1968  Burglary Prevention
Sep. 22, 1965  Compensation for Victims of Crime
Feb. 17, 1965  Criminal Justice and Crime Control
Oct. 18, 1961  Control of City Crime
Jun. 20, 1929  Crime and the Courts
Criminal Law Procedure and Due Process