Since 1980, there has been a sharp rise in incarceration rates in the U.S. and this has resulted in one in three working-age Americans having a criminal record. The reality is that having a criminal record¬–even for a misdemeanor offense can create a lifelong barrier to securing employment, housing, student loans, and education. Data indicates that a criminal record reduces the chance of a callback or offer by nearly 50%. This means that those with a criminal record have much more difficulty securing gainful employment given that 87 percent of employers conduct background checks as part of the application process.
According to research, 60 percent of formerly incarcerated individuals are unemployed within one year of being released. Realizing that high unemployment rates among ex-offenders has damaged the health of the U.S. economy and employment is a significant factor in reducing recidivism rates, there have been a number of efforts made at the federal and state level to enact policies to lessen these barriers, allowing more opportunities for employers to consider hiring people with a criminal record.
How Can We Improve Hiring People With A Criminal Record?
National support for so-called “banning the box” policies has increased dramatically over recent years. “Banning the box” refers to the questions on employment applications that require applicants to indicate if they have ever been arrested or convicted of a crime. The logic is that removing the box will provide ex-offenders a fair opportunity to compete for employment and prevent employers from preemptively eliminating qualified applicants, solely because of their criminal background. In fact, research has indicated that an employer is more willing to hire an applicant once they have had the chance to examine his/her qualifications.
On November 2, 2015, President Obama issued an executive order to formalize a practice in which questions about an applicant’s criminal background are delayed until later in the federal hiring process and the hiring of federal contractors. While background checks are still permitted under this order, federal agencies must consider an applicant’s qualifications for employment before making inquiries into his or her criminal history. Though Congress has not passed “ban the box” legislation at the federal level, 23 states have adopted such policies and 8 states have removed the criminal history question on job applications for private employers as well.
Michigan’s Efforts To Remove Job Barriers
In 2013, Michigan Representative Fred Durhal, Jr. proposed legislation to improve the practice of hiring people with a criminal record by removing the criminal conviction question on employment applications, but the bill did not pass. While the Michigan state legislature has not passed ban the box legislation, Ann Arbor, Detroit, Kalamazoo, Muskegon County, Genesee County, and Saginaw County have adopted ban the box policies.
Additionally, a group of West Michigan business leaders has urged private employers to consider hiring people with a criminal record. Two Michigan-based companies, Cascade Engineering, and Butterball Farms launched the 30-2-2 initiative in 2012 as a way of encouraging businesses to hire individuals with a criminal background and removing obstacles to employment. The aim of the initiative is to have 30 participating area companies hire two ex-offenders each and to track their performance for two years. They have had 19 companies commit to the initiative and are tracking more than 100 employees.
Call DeBruin Law Today
At DeBruin Law, we understand that having a criminal record can create significant obstacles to securing employment and we have extensive experience helping clients file expungement applications with the State. Depending on the nature and number of your crimes, you may be able to erase your criminal record. If you think you might qualify for an expungement and would like to learn more, contact one of the attorneys at DeBruin Law today, call DeBruin Law at (517) 324-4303.