BANG, the judge slams the gavel down rendering judgment against you, CLANG, the prison door slams shut removing you from society whom you offended, SWOOSH, economic opportunity fleeing at light speed never to return. A criminal conviction has long been the proverbial nail in the coffin of a person’s (now a felon) career. With this staining mark most job applicants are quickly snuffed from the list of prospective jobs, and this is the case in a booming economy with full employment which is not our current economic condition. Currently faced with an unemployment rate of 7.9%, the underemployment/unemployment somewhere around 16% (Gallop), hundreds of people are applying for a single stocker position at a supermarket.
An editorial in the New York Times dated November 11, 2012 stated a find by the American Bar Association; there are more than 38,000 statutes across the states and territories, almost 700 per entity intentionally making it difficult or down right impossible to maintain successful lives, essentially barring ex-offenders from full re-entry.
The editorial piece also made mention of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reiterating, this past spring, old policy standards that prohibit denying employment strictly on criminal background without thoroughly evaluating severity and the length of time passed since the offence.
Now, broaden the equation, say you are not only a felon but are also listed on the sex offender registry. Large department stores discourage store managers in granting persons listed on the registry employment, even going so far in one big box store’s case to require independent contractors to disclose whether or not they have been listed on the public sex offender registry within the past 5 years.
Some states such as Texas prominently display where sex offenders are employed causing many businesses to further justify not employing those listed.
Making matters worse Texas along with other states requires public registration of juvenile offenders listing children as young as 10 years of age. In April of this year Meredith Bennett-Smith with the Christian Science Monitor wrote that one quarter of young Americans aged 16 to 19 are out of work. Challenged already with sparse job opportunities youth on the registry find it almost impossible to obtain entry level positions and labor intense jobs such as construction especially frown on hiring sex offenders regardless of when their offense occurred.
Dependable income, stable housing, and connections with society are paramount to successful re-entry of any offender back into society. Excluding convicts and those placed on the sex offender registry (both children and adults) from the job market hurts spouses and children of these offenders most of all. Making the job market fair and open to everyone seeking employment is an important step to making a better safer society.