A recent study shows two-thirds of former inmates are rearrested and re-convicted within three years of their release from prison, reports Kate Irby for McClatchy.
A staggering 60 to 75 percent are not employed a year after their release.
People who can’t earn money often use illegal means to survive. Moreover, efforts to fix the problem may unintentionally complicate the matter for those who have never committed crime, according to the report.
A new policy called “Ban the Box” was created to remedy the problem. However, a Princeton study shows the law benefits Whites more than Blacks and Hispanics.
Ban the Box legislation has been adopted by many cities and states and in 2015 was applied to federal employers by President Barack Obama. It prevents employers from including a box on applications for potential employees to check if they were convicted of a crime. It deters questions about criminal history until “late in the hiring process.”
The law was designed to empower parolees to prove their employability and lessen the likelihood of employers to toss convicts’ applications due to their convictions. The ideology behind this law is to decrease recidivism rates, according to the report.
However, according to McClatchy, it has unintended negative consequence, creating biased hiring practices for Blacks and Hispanics, even for those Blacks and Hispanics who have not been convicted of a crime.
A study done by Princeton researchers of fictitious job applications submitted to employers in New Jersey and New York prior to the enactment of the ban the box policy tracked how many responses these applications received. The applications had randomly assigned race and criminal backgrounds. The total New York numbers were incomplete, but the New Jersey results were startling as to how employers reacted once the ban the box policy became law.
Employers who required criminal history background checks on a job application called White people back slightly more often prior to the laws enactment, but the gap dramatically increased after employers were forbidden to ask about criminal history.
Jennifer L. Doleac of the Brookings Institution said, this discrimination comes up because employers are trying to use extremely limited information in a job application to find people who would be “peaceful, honest, agreeable employees who won’t be taken off the job by an arrest or conviction.” Most employers do that partially by checking criminal backgrounds, even though some former convicts are perfectly capable of fitting that mold. But without that check, they turn to another, even less accurate indicator: race.
“Black and Hispanic men are more likely than others to have been convicted of a crime: the most recent data suggests that a Black man born in 2001 has a 32 percent chance of serving time in prison at some point during his lifetime, compared with 17 percent for Hispanic men and just 6 percent for White men,” says Doleac. “Employers will guess that Black and Hispanic men are more likely to have been in prison and therefore less likely to be job-ready.”
Doleac concludes that ban the box policy hurts more people than it helps: “Just because employers can’t see an applicant’s criminal history doesn’t mean they don’t care about it,” says Doleac. “Under ban the box, they will avoid ex-offenders by avoiding groups that are more likely to contain ex-offenders, like Black and Hispanic men.”