New York has just taken a big step toward improving employability prospects for those with criminal records with the introduction of the “Fair Chance” bill. The bill, if enacted permanently, would ban employers from asking, whether in interviews or on applications, about a potential employee’s criminal record. In fact, any attempt to hint at an applicant’s criminal past would be actionable, with a potential fine for the employer of up to $1,000 in damages.
Those opposed to such legislation usually state that it’s only fair for employers to know if the person they’re hiring has been involved in criminal activity. The bill addresses this as well, by stipulating that while a criminal record can’t be inquired about during the majority of the hiring process, the question can be posed once a job offer as been made.
Because convicted felons are not a protected class, employers will still be able rescind the offer or fire an employee at any time on the basis of a criminal past.
Even so, some city and state representatives, and many of those with criminal records, believe the bill will still drastically improve the odds of a convict to be able to legally support him or herself with meaningful work. Many employers my just go ahead and throw an application in the trash as soon as they see a checked box indicating a person has committed a crime in the past. Often, this means completely disregarding any individual merits or positive achievements of the applicant.
Sometimes highly educated or skilled workers may be passed over for less-qualified competitors due to their past. Especially with crimes involving newer or technology-based laws, some convicts can also feel that the punishment doesn’t fit the crime.
Of course, the vast majority of cases are much simpler: Someone made a mistake, paid their debt to society for said mistake, and then is released into the world. Despite that repayment, the playing field is rarely an even one for anyone with a criminal record, however. For this reason, people end up unable to secure employment for years or even decades.
It’s often argued, as well, that the practice of criminal past disclosure can actually lead to increased rates of crime. When you put someone out into the world after a crime, and then tell them the only way to support themselves is through a job while simultaneously hamstringing their chances of ever obtaining said job, criminal relapse is going to become more common. No means of supporting oneself, combined with basic living cost needs and a criminal past, can equate to a recipe for disaster.
Many use this point to argue a simple cost/benefit analysis: The risk of employers hiring a past criminal against the risk of criminal relapse, new crime victims, and more taxpayer money spent on prison accommodations in the long run.
Such a simplistic view of the situation makes a point but is unnecessary in actuality in most cases; the vast majority of offenders have no want to commit more crimes, they want to simply move on and start living a normal life as soon as possible.