Even after having served their required time in the criminal justice system,
many people are unaware of the antidiscrimination laws regarding employment for those with a criminal background.
"In recent decades, the number of Americans who have had contact with the criminal justice system has increased exponentially. It is estimated that about one in three adults now has a criminal history record - which often consists of an arrest that did not lead to conviction, a conviction for which the person was not sentenced to a term of incarceration, or a conviction for a non-violent crime.1 On any given day, about 2.3 million people are incarcerated2 and each year 700,000 people are released from prison3 and almost 13 million are admitted to - and released from - local jails.4
Racial and ethnic disparities are reflected in incarceration rates. According to the Pew Center on the States, one in 106 white men, one in 36 Hispanic men, and one in 15 African American men are incarcerated.5 Additionally, on average, one in 31 adults is under correctional control (i.e., probation, parole, or incarceration), including one in 45 white adults, one in 27 Hispanic adults and one in 11 African American adults.6 Racial and ethnic disparities may also be reflected in other criminal history records. For example, although African Americans constitute approximately 13 percent of the overall population,7 they account for 28 ercent of those arrested8 and almost 40 percent of the incarcerated population.9
In light of these racial and ethnic disparities, contractors should be mindful of federal antidiscrimination laws if they choose to rely on job applicants' criminal history records for purposes of employment decisions. Hiring policies and practices that exclude workers with criminal records may run afoul of such laws, which prohibit intentional discrimination on the basis of race, national origin, or other protected bases, and policies or practices that have a disparate impact on these protected groups and cannot be justified as job related and consistent with business necessity. Policies that exclude people from employment based on the mere existence of a criminal history record and that do not take into account the age and nature of an offense, for example, are likely to unjustifiably restrict the employment opportunities of individuals with conviction histories. Due to racial and ethnic disparities in the criminal justice system, such policies are likely to violate federal antidiscrimination law. Accordingly, contractors should carefully consider their legal obligations before adopting such policies." United States Department of Labor
Bryan Stevenson gives a compelling talk on the truthful disparities of our judicial system.