Should You Hire Someone With A Criminal Background?

Thousands of criminal offenders are released from jail every year. But many companies simply won’t hire ex-offenders. You may see them as an unacceptable risk, or may not want your company name associated with any person that’s committed crimes. Others may tend to assume that offenders are less intelligent, or unstable. Of course, none of these ideas applies to every individual. Here are some things to consider about candidates with a criminal history.

Challenges to offenders

People with criminal backgrounds have to earn a living and often support families. Those who are still on probation may need to make monthly payments, undergo counseling, or make restitution. You may find yourself avoiding even well-educated offenders with good work histories. A common complaint among ex-offenders is that they’re stigmatized for life, often over a single bad decision, and can’t expect to be hired for anything but low-paying menial jobs.

Learned their lesson

Offenders have paid the price, and are entitled to a second chance. Applicants free of criminal backgrounds come with no guarantees and do wind up committing theft or workplace violence. There is no reason to assume an ex-offender will repeat their mistakes. You must decide for every candidate whether that individual is qualified and reliable. You could also point out to good candidates who fail background checks that it is possible to retain a lawyer and have their criminal record expunged in some cases.

Limiting the talent

Criminal backgrounds don’t negate talent. It doesn’t make sense fiscally to reject someone with extensive experience vs someone with limited ability but a clean record. FBI statistics say that 3 out of 10 people in the US have a criminal past. Rejecting them on principle means you’re automatically eliminating 30 percent of your candidate pool.

Risk of workplace crimes

You may feel that if a person faltered once, they possess a character that will tempt them to criminal activity again. Repeat offenders may indicate a greater risk. Those with a pattern of theft, fraud, drug use, and sex crimes or violence do suggest a tendency to that kind of behavior. However, there’s a wide range of reasons people can be arrested, in some cases even over-due library books or parking tickets. Single-offense or misdemeanor offenders will represent a much lower risk. You should also determine how the rest of your team will feel about working with the ex-offender.

Criminal pasts do come with some legitimate concerns. But whether you lean toward forgiveness or condemnation, every business decision should be about weighing the relative risks and rewards.


Author: Lizzie W

Lizzie Weakley is a freelance writer from Columbus, Ohio. In her free time, she enjoys the outdoors and walks in the park with her three-year-old husky, Snowball. You can find her on Twitter @LizzieWeakley.

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