Today’s Daily Read covers a topic that I think is very important, but you don’t hear a lot about. It involves the little box on job applications asking if you’ve ever been convicted of a crime. That box was never more than a blip to me as I checked “NO” and moved on – but then I met someone who had a criminal record. This guy didn’t even serve time, yet he had a record, and so he had to check the box… and I have no doubt that it contributed to the fact that he struggled mightily to find employment, in spite of submitting a blizzard of applications over the course of several months.
In theory, once a person has paid their debt to society for a crime, they should start with a clean slate. Obviously there are certain crimes, and certain jobs, that require more care; e.g. I can’t blame an accounting firm for not wanting to hire an embezzler. And banning the box does not mean that employers can’t ask about criminal records or run background checks. But once a person has served their time, if they are unable to find meaningful employment (by which I mean a way to support themselves, not necessarily a dream job), then what do you think the chances are that that person will stay out of trouble with the law? Obviously, being unemployed is not justification for committing a crime, but based on the experience of my friend, who only had a misdemeanor and yet had the door slammed on him again and again, I can’t imagine what the struggle is like for someone who served time for more serious crimes. If we want the system to be rehabilitative and to serve the cause of justice, then I fully support banning the box and giving folks with a record a better chance of staying out of prison.