Minnesota was a leader when it prohibited public employers from requiring an applicant to disclose a criminal history record on an initial employment application. Although this is a step in the right direction, it is not enough. HF 690/SF 523 would also prohibit private employers from asking job applicants about criminal history on their job application. By requiring both private and public employers to ‘ban the box,’ Minnesotans with prior criminal records will have a fairer chance of finding employment.
People of color and American Indians experience disparate treatment at every level of the criminal justice system. That continues to be true even after time served – these groups face multiple barriers to obtaining employment, the key to rebuilding lives following incarceration. Also, inability to find work often leads to high recidivism rates, thus perpetuating the cycle of incarceration.
The Pew Center on the States has calculated that 1 in 100 Americans are incarcerated on any given day in the United States. This number is alarming, but even more so for communities of color. Dr. Bruce Western of Harvard University and Dr. Becky Pettit of the University of Washington, both commissioned by the Pew Charitable Trusts to further analyze this data, found that of working-aged men in prison, 1 in 87 are white, 1 in 36 are Hispanic, and 1 in 12 are African-American. Studies show that employers are hesitant to hire people with a criminal record, and with these statistics people of color with criminal records are going to be hit the hardest.
“Job seekers with a criminal record are offered half as many positions as those without criminal records, and African-American applicants receive two-thirds fewer offers.” The PEW Charitable Trusts, Collateral Costs: Incarceration’s Effect on Economic Mobility
Communities of color are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system.
“Nationally, African-Americans were newly admitted to custody at a rate 5.7 times the rate for Whites. Hispanics were admitted 1.9 times and Native Americans 4.3 times the rate for Whites.” National Council on Crime and Delinquency, Racial and Ethnic Disparities in the US Criminal Justice System
“American Indians make up less than 2 percent of Minnesota’s total population, but they account for more than 8 percent of adult offenders in the state’s prison system.” MPR, Minn. Program Uses American Indian Culture to Target Prison Recidivism
“Persons of color comprise 77 percent of all youth serving life without parole sentences.” Human Rights Watch, World Report 2012: United States
“In 2010 28% of arrests were of African-Americans, even though they only comprise 14% of the United States’ population.” U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
It’s becoming more and more difficult to reintegrate back into society.
“According to the Society for Human Resource Management, 92% of employers did some kind of pre-employment background check in 2010, up from just 51% in 1996.” Time, Why We Need to Protect Ex-Con Job Seekers from Discrimination
“Serving time reduces hourly wages for men by approximately 11%, annual employment by 9 weeks, and annual earnings by 40%.” The PEW Charitable Trusts, Collateral Costs: Incarceration’s Effect on Economic Mobility
Why does this matter?
According to the PEW Charitable Trusts research there are over 2.7 million children with one or more parents in jail, and 1 in 9 African American children have at least one parent in jail. The lack of parents in these childrens’ lives has detrimental generational effects. That is because “parental income is one of the strongest indicators of one’s own chance of upward economic mobility.” In a study cited in this research, family income fell 22% when a parent was incarcerated. Children with incarcerated parents also tend to have more difficulty in school. Another study found that 23% of children with an incarcerated parent were expelled from school, as compared to 4% of children without incarcerated parents; and boys with an incarcerated parent tended to be more aggressive.
“As a new generation of children are touched by the incarceration of a parent, and especially as those children feel the impact of that incarceration in their family income and their educational success, their prospects for upward economic mobility becomes significantly dimmer.” The PEW Charitable Trusts, Collateral Costs: Incarceration’s Effect on Economic Mobility
What can we do?
The PEW Charitable Trusts found that providing education, job training opportunities, and work supports to offenders before and after release has shown to help secure employment and break the cycle of crime. In-prison vocational programs produced net benefits of $13,738, or $12.62 for each $1 invested.
“When returning offenders can find and keep legitimate employment, they are more likely to be able to pay restitution to their victims, support their children, and avoid crime.”
“Incarceration has implications for individual employment earnings and long-term economic mobility that are collectively amplified for minority communities, often already at a disadvantage in terms of broader financial well-being” The PEW Charitable Trusts, Collateral Costs: Incarceration’s Effect on Economic Mobility
Offering a True Second Chance: ‘Ban the Box’ on Employment Applications pdf available here.