Should I Hire an Ex-offender?


Employers encounter a variety of applicants during the hiring process. Among these candidates are former offenders who are seeking to rejoin society.

The First Step Act, signed into law in 2018, is a significant step towards criminal justice reform in the United States. This law essentially shortens prison sentences considered unnecessarily long and improves conditions in prisons.

Companies doubt that hiring ex-offenders are good for their business, but there is reason to see it as beneficial. Here is a guide on understanding its consequences and how to approach the process.

Helping Someone Turn Over a New Leaf

Hiring a previous offender is a unique opportunity to assist a person working for a new start in society. Although not a direct causation, steady employment might even have an association with the unlikelihood of re-offending.

More Motivated

The unfortunate truth is that ex-offenders are not afforded the same amount of opportunities as other people. Along with this observation, managers have mentioned that ex-offenders are often seen as having increased motivation to work. This is often their way of expressing gratitude to the employer who allowed them to showcase their capability to contribute to society.

Although not ex-convicts, some candidates have had a history of arrest. While working to pay off bail bonds, employment also allows them to work towards becoming debt-free members of their community.

Specialized Skill Set

Ex-inmates have spent a significant amount of time in prison learning new skills from training sessions and workshops. Learning vocational skills equips them with experience that they can apply at work once they are released.

There might be perceived risks associated with hiring ex-offenders. However, employers must keep in mind that just like any other candidate, they have specialized abilities that fit the job description.

How Your Business Can Benefit

employee working

Hiring an ex-offender will not only allow a company to help someone start over. Along with this ethical responsibility are some business advantages that you might not have been previously aware of.

Promoting Nondiscriminatory Hiring Practices

By not skipping through their applications in your hiring process, your company’s image improves through its visible nondiscriminatory practices. Note that while performing background checks on criminal history is legal, actions that promote discrimination against those with a criminal history are unlawful.

A simple way to signal fair hiring practices in your business is to welcome applicants without excluding disadvantaged workers.

Tax Credit Qualifications

The Work Opportunity Tax Credit, or WOTC, provides tax credits for employers who hire persons from specific groups who face challenges finding employment. Included in these target groups are ex-offenders. WOTC incentivizes having a diverse workplace and encourages fair access to jobs in the U.S.

Other Considerations

While the benefits of hiring ex-felons are apparent, hiring managers should also keep these considerations in mind while reviewing candidates’ applications.

Nature of the Crime

When doing background checks, pay attention to the nature of the committed crime. Was it a minor or major offense? How frequently did the applicant commit it?

Understanding its nature also allows employers to see if the position directly opposes the crime. For instance, a history of theft might not be the best match for a position that requires close involvement with finances. Knowing these lets hiring managers make unbiased decisions based on their judgment of the situation.

Weigh the risks and tell apart which of these are actual and which are based on predictions.

Recency of the Crime

Crimes that are at least 10 years old usually might not be examined by employers. Those that were committed less than 10 years before the application can legally be looked into. Employers can inquire about such crimes or look into them in criminal background checks.

Post-offense History

The facts about the committed crime are important, but their character after the ordeal is just as relevant. What have they been doing since their release from prison? How have they been adjusting to society?

Their history after the criminal offense gives an impression of their character should they be hired for the job. Visible effort to be a good citizen speaks of how they might treat the position they are offered.

The United Nations’ Nelson Mandela Rules states that prisoners have dignity inherent in their person and must be treated with respect. This is a principle that all employers must apply in screening candidates.

Hiring an ex-offender will ultimately depend on several factors. However, a clear course of action is not to discriminate against disadvantaged parties to promote fairness in the U.S. work system.

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