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4 Things to Know About Employees with a Criminal History

Making the decision to hire formerly incarcerated individuals is a big step in developing a diverse and inclusive workforce. While some HR professionals may hesitate to explore this particular talent pool, your company can reap many benefits from second-chance hiring.

Through our Getting Talent Back to Work initiative, SHRM is passionate about ending outdated, non-inclusive hiring practices that arbitrarily exclude individuals with a criminal record.

Formerly incarcerated individuals are unique employees, and you may have some questions about how they’d fit into your workplace. To help you learn how these workers can help your business, we’ve compiled four things you should know about employees with a criminal history.

1. They can be model employees.

Many companies find that formerly incarcerated individuals are dedicated, motivated and hardworking employees.

“Our formerly incarcerated employees aren’t just ‘nonproblems.’ They’re role models in terms of performance, attendance and teamwork. They have an especially strong incentive to deliver value because they’ve seen the alternative, and in the overwhelming majority of cases, they deliver.”

— Gretchen Peterson, CHRO, Dave’s Killer Bread

Those with a record are often so grateful for a second chance that they become the most dedicated employees, committed to excelling. Because these employees are highly motivated to retain secure employment, they remain loyal and have been shown to increase company retention rates.

2. They make up almost a third of the labor pool.

Did you know that 75 million Americans have a criminal record? That’s 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. This often-overlooked and neglected population represents a major opportunity for your company to secure qualified talent in an increasingly competitive labor market.

Shifting your recruitment strategies to include formerly incarcerated individuals will expand your applicant pool and beget new opportunities for your company and for a key population in need of a second chance.

3. Their employment makes your community safer.

Employment is a key factor in preventing recidivism, or the likelihood that a formerly incarcerated person will return to prison. Your impact through employment reduces recidivism and improves public safety by keeping these individuals on track as productive working members of society.

The single most important predictor of recidivism is joblessness, and 75% of formerly incarcerated individuals will remain unemployed for a year after release. Hiring people with a criminal record reduces the number of career criminals in your community.

4. They help the economy.

The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world. That means the U.S. economy is missing out on the potential contributions of both the 2.3 million incarcerated Americans and those who’ve been released from prison, but are still discriminated against through unfair hiring practices.

In fact, the U.S. GNP is reduced by an estimated $78 – $87 billion because of the exclusion of formerly incarcerated individuals from the workforce.

We’re passionate about advocating for second-chance hiring. As the unemployment rate continues to decrease, it may be time for your company to consider recruiting individuals with a criminal record. You’ll find productive and loyal workers, while helping your community and the economy.

For more information on why you should consider all qualified candidates, regardless of criminal record, check out SHRM’s Getting Talent Back to Work initiative.

Sources: Trone Center for Justice & Equality, American Civil Liberties Union, Pew Research, International Centre for Prison Studies.