Hiring ex-convicts is a controversial topic for any company. Amid all the talk of inclusivity and giving ex-convicts a second chance, it is undeniable that a stigma remains. People with a criminal history, despite having strong proof of reformation, are still discriminated against in the job market.
A report from the Bureau of Justice Statistics released in December 2021 shows that 33% of 50,000 ex-convicts didn’t get employed at all four years post-release. Furthermore, the number of unemployed didn’t go lower than 60% the entire time. For those who were fortunate enough to get hired, things didn’t go smoothly either. They only got jobs that didn’t offer security and upward mobility.
Thankfully, more and more businesses are starting to see the opportunities presented by hiring ex-convicts. Small businesses, in particular, are insisting on hiring individuals who served jail time because of their skillset and the tax incentives they can be eligible for.
Why hire ex-convicts?
There are many reasons why a recruiter would not want to hire an ex-felon. If you are hesitant to hire one, your hesitation is justified. But if you recognize the value of ex-convicts in the job market, you would want to know the exact reasons why you should hire them.
Just like hiring people with no criminal background, the results of hiring ex-convicts will depend on how well the recruitment process is executed. When done correctly, hiring ex-convicts can land you a skilled and highly disciplined worker that can contribute to your company.
Hiring ex-convicts is a win-win
The practice of hiring ex-convicts is also known as second-chance hiring. Giving an ex-felon a job gives them a second chance to build themselves from the ground up. You are giving them an opportunity to prove they have been reformed and are still valuable assets to the community and your company. By putting them on a payroll, you are helping them weather the financial challenges brought about by incarceration.
For your company, second-chance hiring means an opportunity to hire people who are determined, loyal, and profitable. Research from the Society for Human Resource Management Foundation has found that 85% of HR professionals and 81% of business leaders say employees who have spent jail time perform at the same level or higher than employees with a clean background.
Moreover, hiring ex-convicts can qualify your business for a tax break and other financial incentives from the government. For instance, the IRS, through the Work Opportunity Tax Credit program, rewards a tax benefit to businesses that practice second-chance hiring.
Benefits of hiring ex-convicts
Recruiting people with a criminal record brings a lot of benefits to your company.
They are excited to start again
Truly reformed ex-convicts have a newfound hope in life that gives them a rejuvenated drive to work hard and build themselves back up. If that sounds like someone you would like to work for your company, then hiring an ex-convict just might be the right move for you.
After years of prison, many former inmates swear an oath to themselves: an oath to do better. This means they will be hard workers and are unlikely to waste chances given to them, considering the stigma. They know what it feels like to fail and hit rock bottom, so you can rest assured they know the value of resiliency and determination.
They are disciplined
Living in prison is tough, but it builds discipline. Inside a prison, people learn to follow authority and value their role in the community. Almost everything is done according to schedule and there are strict rules and regulations for everything, including recreation.
Most of all, ex-convicts know the consequences of breaking the law. They have made that mistake in the past and have paid for it with years of their life. Of all people, they best know how it feels to lose their freedom, so you can argue they’ll do their best not to lose it again.
They are loyal
Life is a lot harder for people who just got out of jail. Most of the time, they are discriminated against, and their criminal past is always being held against them. However, for most of them, this is a challenge to prove they are worth placing trust on. When you hire an ex-convict, they do their best to contribute so they can separate themselves as far as they can from their past. They will value the trust you gave them and will stick with your company for as long as they can.
They are skilled
Prisoners are given time for recreation, which allows them to pursue hobbies like music and writing. They are also mandated to work if they are medically able. Sentenced inmates may work as food service crews, warehouse personnel, plumbers, painters, and others. Upon leaving prison, former inmates have years of work experience under their belt. In addition, the closely monitored environment, strict rules, and lack of distractions mean ex-convicts had plenty of time to sharpen their focus.
A truly reformed ex-inmate is a focused, skilled worker with several years of experience — a person many companies would love to have in their team.
Doing so is good for society
Second-chance hiring is good not only for the employer and the applicant but also for society as a whole. By hiring ex-convicts, you are giving many of them a chance to prove to society they are not the same person they were before being imprisoned. You are giving them a chance to show they have been reformed. As more and more businesses give ex-felons a chance, the stigma that has stuck to them will slowly fade.
When you hire a former inmate, you give them financial stability and rejuvenate their self-worth. This puts them in a position where they are unlikely to return to crime. After all, they wouldn’t want to waste the second chance they have been given. Also, they wouldn’t need to resort to crime if everything in their life is going well once more.
Lastly, the successful hiring of ex-convicts testifies to the effectiveness of the correctional system. As more people tell stories of rebuilding their lives after years in prison, more will see that the correctional system works and that criminals can truly be reformed.
Cons of hiring ex-convicts
The recruitment of ex-convicts wouldn’t be a controversial topic if it only offered benefits. If you’re considering hiring former inmates, there are things you need to consider.
They’ve become rusty
Ex-inmates who had legitimate careers pre-conviction may no longer be as skilled as they were before. Being in prison prevents them from practicing their expertise and the environment inside may also tarnish the rest of their professional skillset. However, this is not true for everyone. It is only important to take this into consideration when hiring an ex-convict based on their experiences before being imprisoned.
Employees don’t approve of it
If you failed to nurture a culture of inclusivity in your company before you started hiring ex-convicts, you may find your other employees not too happy about your decision. This is especially true if previous attempts at second-chance hiring didn’t end up well.
Employees may fear for their safety while in the workplace. They may start questioning the decisions of business leaders and refuse to cooperate with the hired ex-convicts. Eventually, there will be a rift between the employees and the management which will surely result in significant problems for the business.
You have to train them for job readiness
The willingness to hire ex-convicts and the determination to go through the process are two different things. When hiring ex-felons, employers face the burden of putting them under training programs to ensure they are job-ready and aren’t a threat to others. Arranging such training programs will cost money and other resources.
In between the recruitment team making sure the candidates are qualified for the job and coordinating with parole officers, hiring a former inmate can be a lengthy process that will put a strain on your HR professionals.
If you’re worried about damages
Recruiting ex-convicts is a risk, but so is recruiting anyone. Sometimes you will only truly know a person or employee once they’re already on your team. Fearing that hired ex-felons will not behave as well as they promised and will cause damages to your business is justified.
To mitigate this fear, the US Department of Labor offers incentives. There is a Federal Bonding Program that allows employers to ask for reimbursement of employee-related damages that the business endured in the first six months of the ex-convict’s tenure.
Giving individuals with a criminal record a second chance is a noble thing to do, especially for a business. If you’re a business owner who’s willing to practice second-chance hiring, you need to fully understand the risks and benefits that it entails. Hiring ex-felons is not a simple process and can take plenty of time and resources on your part. However, when done right, ex-convicts can be a pivotal part of your team as your business grows.