Job Fair for Convicted Felons
March 5, 2010
I feel like I write the following statement (or similar sentiments) a lot when talking about about the prospect of hiring those with criminal records, particularly those with felony convictions, here I go again.
True, some convictions prevent individuals from working in certain positions. True, some of the most heinous offenders are unemployable. True, those who hide or lie about their past are of concern to prospective employers. True, people can successfully rehabilitate. True, it is not the job of background screeners to prevent people from getting jobs. We simply report the information that we find and let employers make informed hiring decisions.
Why the soliloquy? CNN just reported about a job fair for convicted felons in Houston and I find myself applauding the efforts of the organizers and for the 3,000 people who attended in search of gainful employment. People often question how we can get behind efforts like this and I go into the rationale I conveyed above. Criminal recidivism rates are a serious societal problem. They soar when those released from prison can’t find jobs. Therefore, when those with criminal records are honest about their past, vow not to repeat their mistakes and decide to get a job, I’m all for it. BTW, even employers that knowingly hire convicted felons should still conduct employment background checks.
People Line Up at Job Fair for Convicted Felons
(CNN) — More than 3,000 people turned out in downtown Houston, Texas, Wednesday for a job fair designed for convicted felons.
Organizers of the Road to Re-entry Employment Fair, created to help those with criminal records find work and reintegrate into society, had expected a few hundred job people. The line of job seekers, which ran for a few blocks and tied up traffic, as reported by CNN affiliate KHOU, took the planners by surprise.
“These were not individuals trying to get concert tickets or a free dinner,” said Jarvis Johnson, a Houston City Council member who helped sponsor the inaugural event. “They were individuals who were waiting in line because they want to be productive members of society.”
Lavell Byrd was just one of the people who came out in search of work. He told KHOU that he hadn’t had a full-time position since December.
“I’m an ex-con, and that’s the main thing that’s holding me back,” Byrd said to KHOU. “It’s a very, very, very hard thing that people still look at what you did in the past and not what you can do in the future.”
Giving people like Byrd a chance to succeed and be a productive part of the work force is in the interest of all of us, said council member Johnson. If ex-criminals can’t findjobs, they’re more likely to land back in prison, he said.
“They made a mistake, but they’ve paid their debt to society,” he said. “At the end of the day, we are all going to pay if we don’t open the doors of opportunity — whether we become the victims [of future crimes] or we have to use our tax dollars to imprison them.”
And according to the Road to Re-Entry Web site, there are incentives in place to make hiring ex-offenders more appealing to employers. For one, the Federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit gives tax credits to those who open their doors to those with criminal records.
Nick Fishman is the co-founder of EmployeeScreenIQ, a leading, global employment background screening provider, and serves as the company’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer. He pioneered the creation of EmployeeScreen University, the #1 educational resource on employment background checks for human resources, security and risk management professionals. A recognized industry expert, Nick is a frequent author, presenter and contributor to the news media. Nick is also a licensed private investigator in the states of Ohio and Texas.
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