A criminal conviction doesn’t have to be a career death sentence

I could have a criminal record—and perhaps you could, too. Nearly 77 million Americans, or one in three adults, have a criminal record.

I don’t because my knuckleheaded mistakes happened within the bubble of a college campus, where the police may be more inclined to issue warnings than to make arrests. Many are not so lucky. Only one in three Americans age 25 or older have completed a bachelor’s degree or higher. And while offenses may result in warnings on college campuses, similar behaviors often result in formal criminal records elsewhere. Our criminal justice system has a disproportionate impact on communities of color—this moment calls for a sense of urgency.

For far too many Americans, our criminal justice system closes doors forever and prevents companies from hiring the talent they need. It’s time for change.

This can make it difficult, or even impossible, people to work in a given field, especially one that requires an occupational license. Having a record reduces the likelihood of a job callback or offer by as much as 50 percent, according to the NAACP. In the land of the free, this is unacceptable. Those who paid their debt to society should not be subject to a vocational sentence of life-without-equal-opportunity.

Fortunately, employers and job seekers can take simple steps to create the lasting change we need. EMPLOYERS: GO BEYOND “BAN THE BOX”

For employers, providing equal opportunity for people with criminal records is not only the right thing to do; it’s also good for business. For proof, look no further than MOD Pizza, a fast-growing pizza restaurant chain that thrives despite stiff competition from major brands with household names. The secret sauce? MOD Pizza pays living wages and actively recruits ex-convicts and felons, many of whom have gone on to become store managers and brand ambassadors. Founder Scott Svenson, reflecting on his commitment to providing equal opportunity, stated he has “discovered that it’s also a more powerful business model if you give people something to work towards that is more than just a paycheck.”

To follow this example, start by simply eliminating bias from the hiring process. Fortunately, several states, counties, and cities have adopted “Ban the Box” initiatives, which provide job applicants with a fair shot at employment by removing conviction history from job applications and delaying background checks until later in the hiring process. While there is growing nuance about how effective Ban the Box laws are at improving employment outcomes for people with a criminal history, there is no question that providing hardworking people with pathways to success is the right thing to do. FULL ARTICLE

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