People with criminal records face barriers to jobs, training, education, and housing every day—which can often lead to a lifetime of poverty. By sharing first-hand experiences, people with criminal records can make their voices heard and raise awareness about unjust policies and practices that prevent people who have paid their debt to society from getting a second chance.
Occupational licensing laws govern who can and cannot work in certain professions—and many of these laws shut out entire swaths of the workforce based on their criminal record. This analysis finds that such provisions not only harm job seekers with records, but also violate the constitutional rights to equal protection and due process and undermine the safety of our communities. Accordingly, policymakers should follow the lead of states that have successfully changed or removed barriers to occupational licenses.
A survey by the Society for Human Resource Management and the Charles Koch Institute shows that while job seekers with criminal records face additional barriers during the hiring process, most employers are open to hiring people with criminal histories. Roughly two-thirds of human resources professionals indicated that their organization has experience hiring justice-involved employees, and the majority of workers at all levels indicated willingness to work with individuals with criminal records. Importantly, human resources professionals and managers report that the employees with criminal records perform just as well as—or better than—workers without records.
JustLeadershipUSA’s #WORKINGfuture campaign outlines a “Bill of Rights” for workers with criminal records. The Bill of Rights proposes a new way of thinking about the rights of formerly incarcerated people, rooted in the principles of dignity, restorative justice, and economic security and mobility. #WORKINGfuture is an economic justice campaign to break down collateral consequences and promote investment in the community, spearheaded by leaders who have been affected by the criminal justice system.
Thousands of Californians are eligible to have their criminal records sealed, but many are still missing out on the opportunity. However, it’s not for lack of will—many simply don’t know they’re eligible, can’t afford a lawyer, or get lost in red tape. The automatic sealing of criminal records offers a solution to this problem.
Between 70 million and 100 million Americans has some type of criminal record, which can serve as a barrier to employment, housing, education, family reunification, and more. For 1 in 3 Americans with a criminal record, that can also mean a life sentence to poverty. This roundup summarizes key research on the barriers people with records might face and strategies, such as record-clearing, for removing barriers to opportunity for people with records.