The Perception of a Criminal Record

By: Daniel Steingold | May 09, 2016

The fact that nearly a third of Americans have some sort of incarceration record is alarming to many. Beyond the immediately apparent consequences of being jailed, many additional issues arise. One of these issues entails employment opportunities.

Many employers look at those with a record as being generally untrustworthy and incapable. There have been campaigns, such as Ban the Box, that have sought to eliminate the hiring stigma associated with a criminal record, but what would really shift the tide would be case studies that illustrate the benefits of hiring those with convictions.

And now, we do have such a case study. This is thanks to the U.S. military, America’s largest employer, who has long provided allowed individuals with felony or misdemeanor records to join their ranks.

A recently released, comprehensive analysis of 1.3 million individuals who were in America’s military between 2002 and 2009 found that enlistees with a record are no more likely to be expelled from the military than those with a clean record. Furthermore, those with a record are more likely to get promoted than those without a record.

This backs up less empirical evidence from employers who already do hire those with convictions, such as Johns Hopkins Hospital. They have generally found that those with a checkered past are mature and have learned from their mistakes. They work hard, are loyal and committed, and will do whatever it takes to make things work.

All in all, the entire person should be considered when an employment decision is being made. When it comes to a criminal record, circumstances and severity should play the biggest role. A criminal record, in many cases, is just part of the equation.

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