Data from the Department of Justice indicates that around 650,000 prisoners are released across America every year. And of those former inmates, many are eager to work — and tackle the sorts of jobs that may otherwise go unfilled. But hiring candidates with criminal pasts has always been a bit taboo. There are privacy and safety concerns at play, and many companies are afraid to risk their reputations on people with spotty backgrounds.
Ultimately, most people with criminal histories are just looking for that second chance. And with today’s tight labor market, your organization may benefit from tapping into this often-overlooked, yet highly skilled talent pool. But before you ultimately decide what’s best for your company, here are 5 things we think you should consider.
1. You can’t automatically exclude this population.
“Ban-the-box” legislation — laws that prevent employers from asking about criminal convictions on job applications — continues to become more common in across the country. So if you’re using automated applicant tracking software that sorts applicants based on predetermined criteria, you may be unintentionally — yet illegally — eliminating candidates with criminal backgrounds before you even speak to them. To avoid any unnecessary problems, review your hiring policies to make sure you’re aligned with all local mandates.
2. There are programs to help you.
Because many states and municipalities understand how difficult it is for citizens with criminal histories to find work after being released, there are workforce development programs out there designed to help them ease back into a regular life. If your organization requires specialized skills or needs a lot of talent in a hurry, these programs can help you find who you need.
3. You can mitigate the risk.
The biggest concern about hiring candidates with criminal histories is the potential safety and financial liability. But this shouldn’t be a deterrent. In all 50 states, insurance bonds can be offered to employers who hire risky populations through the Federal Bonding Program under the Department of Labor. Check with your state employment agency for details specific to your location.
4. There are hefty financial benefits available.
If you need to make a case to your company’s executives about why hiring candidates with a criminal history could be a good thing, look no further than the U.S. Government’s tax code. People with criminal backgrounds often come with salary reimbursements and tax credits, like the U.S. Department of Labor’s Work Opportunity Tax Credit, which can offset an ex-offender’s wages by up to $2,400.
5. They will work hard and are extremely loyal.
Because candidates with criminal histories know how tough it is to get a second chance, once it’s granted, they tend to put their best foot forward, work hard and remain extremely loyal. They understand that their options are limited, and will almost always do anything they can to go above and beyond expectations. In fact, several recent studies confirm that people with criminal records perform as well or better than employees who don’t have records.