Many ex-offenders, or ex-felons suffer from collateral damages that keep them from finding a job, housing, and voting long after they paid their debt to society.
According to the EEOC definitions, a qualified ex-felon means a person convicted of a felony under either U.S. or state law and hired within one year of his/her conviction or release from prison. To qualify, the ex-felon also must be a member of a family that falls within a specific income guideline. Id. § 51(d)(4). Only the DOL Form seeks specific conviction information, including dates of conviction and release; the IRS Form 8850 includes this category along with the vocational rehabilitation referral and several others in one broadly framed inquiry.
None of the Federal EEOC laws prohibit specific pre-offer inquiries concerning conviction records; a question concerning whether an individual is an ex-felony offender thus would not be unlawful. Moreover, courts have held that questions regarding conviction records may be probative of job-related characteristics and thus permissible. See, e.g., Green v. Missouri Pac. R.R., 523 F.2d 1290 (8th Cir. 1975) (request for and consideration of conviction records permissible; complete ban on employment of persons with criminal records may violate EEOC laws on proof of disparate impact on protected group). In this instance, your client seeks information about felony convictions not to limit the employment of an ex-offender, but to enhance the job prospects of the ex-offender by determining whether his/her employment entitles an employer to a tax credit.
I condensed the talking points from the article; ABOLISH LIFETIME BANS FOR EX-FELONS by Shawn D. Bushway and Suny Gary Sweeten. The authors write that lifetime bans for ex-felons affect an estimated 1 in 19 adults and 1 in 3 black male adults in the United States (Uggen et al., 2006). These bans may have some short-term benefit in the period during which ex-felons are at a higher risk of reoffending.
However, after a relatively short time span, offending risk differences disappear. Life-course research on desistance shows that virtually all ex-felons eventually desist and that the risk of reoffending drops precipitously as the period of non-offending increases. Lifetime bans bar entry into many types of employment, impede formation of stable family units, and block access to education assistance, low-income housing, and public assistance. These bans block the very domains thought to be central to the desistance process (Giordano et al., 2002; Irwin, 1970; Laub and Sampson, 2003; Laub et al., 1998; Shover, 1996).
Critics argue that short-term bans of ex-felons may be justified because of short-term increased offending risk. In addition, long-term bans may be justified in certain politically sensitive cases, such as barring child sex offenders from working with children. Criminological research does not support blanket lifetime bans of ex-felons, and these lifetime bans must end.
Networking also is important. In today’s economy, where jobs are becoming more and more scarce, few people are able to land jobs without connections. There are many support groups for ex-inmates throughout the country that could be great resources. We are no longer distinguished as blacks, whites, Hispanics, others. Ex-felons are searching for equality in America. This is why the following link is important-- ex-felons must network amongst each other.
There are millions of ex-offenders in America, and America’s political and economic system is not designed in our favor. America is not going to just give them what they want- economic independence, equality, a prideful restart in society. Higher education will not help most ex-offenders overcome the discrimination against them. Higher education may help them expand their minds, but to a great extent not their pockets. Ex-offenders must become owners, both internally and externally.
Gorgus2 writes to the EEOC-- “There are so many ex felons that have paid their debt to society in the form of imprisonment that are being discriminated against getting a job, that it has become an epidemic. I think its time for the government to step in and do something and fast. I would like to be involved in seeing laws passed where it would be illegal to discriminate against any one with any criminal background as far as getting a job. It would seem to me that if society hands down a sentence to an individual to pay back society for the wrong they did, by doing time behind bars, that once that time has been completed then that’s it. We know that with out a job and at least a weekly paycheck you cannot survive, with out getting back into some kind of criminal activity. It is inhumane to deprive some one of the basic right to legally earn a living and feed oneself and or family. If society thinks that an ex felon is so bad that he is not fit to work and put food on the table, then keep him or her behind bars, and let the tax payers feed him. But do not send them back into society with out this basic protection. It is gravely needed, and at this point only the government can help stop this blatant act.”
We should be following the Wisconsin Bill that protects unpardoned ex-offenders. Here, experts suggest former inmates find an agency in their town that focuses on finding jobs for hard-to-place candidates and take advantage of whatever skills training they can get from the government, nonprofit groups and employment agencies with parolee experience.
America Works has locations throughout the U.S. that can be located on their Web site. Ex-offenders should check out the following Web sites for help: The Sentencing Project, The Legal Action Center, The Prisoner Reentry Institute, and Expungement Assistance Services.
The key to getting a job — especially for an ex-con — is references, experts say. To that end, some former inmates may have to take a low-level job, work their tails off, and use that employer for recommendations for the next gig. The Department of Justice has books and videos that help offenders find jobs.
Contact your State legislature and tell your elected officials that ex-offenders are growing and they need to have the same human rights for survival granted by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In addition, visit the petition signing site for stopping ex-felon labeling and discrimination.
Giordano, Peggy C., Stephen A. Cernkovich, and Jennifer L. Rudolph 2002 Gender, crime, and desistance: Toward a theory of cognitive transformation. American Journal of Sociology 107:990–1064.
Irwin, John 1970 The Felon. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.
Laub, John H., Daniel S. Nagin, and Robert J. Sampson.1998 Good marriages and trajectories of change in criminal offending. American Sociological Review 63:225–238.
Laub, John H., and Robert J. Sampson 2003 Shared Beginnings, Divergent Lives: Delinquent Boys to Age 70. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
Shover, Neal 1996 Great Pretenders: Pursuits and Careers of Persistent Thieves. Boulder,Colo.: Westview Press.
Uggen, Christopher, Jeff Manza, and Melissa Thompson2006 Citizenship, democracy and the civic reintegration of criminal offenders. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 605:281–310.