A criminal record shouldn't always be a dealbreaker when it comes to hiring. 

Martha Stewart. Johnny Cash. Mahatma Gandhi. Reese Witherspoon. Susan B. Anthony.

Each of these individuals garnered fame for their talents, be it on screen or in inciting significant social and cultural changes. What do they all have in common other than celebrity status?

They all have an arrest record. 

Just hearing the term "ex-con" makes one think of fearsome beings that serve no use to society other than keeping a prison cell occupied. The thing is, one-third of working adults in the U.S. possess a criminal record,and not all of them fit the stereotype of a grizzled, unhinged, tattooed entity that we see in TV shows and movies. Some individuals had a terrible upbringing and turned their lives around behind bars, while others were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Since humans are imperfect by nature, hiring managers and business owners ought to consider cutting some slack to those who have repaid their debt to society. All things considered, there are certain crimes that are more forgivable than others (i.e. petty larceny vs. first-degree murder). Depending on the nature of the crime, how long ago it occurred, and the industry an offender is looking to work in, hiring managers and business owners should keep an open mind when a prospective employee reveals a criminal history.

man getting arrested

As it turns out, employing a felon has more benefits than you think:

  • An ex-con is less likely to re-offend when employed. By having a schedule and people depending on them to do a job, they're less inclined to slip back into old habits.
  • Your organization could receive tax benefits for hiring someone with a record. The Work Opportunity Tax Credit is a Federal tax credit available to employers for hiring those who have difficulties gaining employment, such as possessing a criminal record.
  • They have intense vocational training. Many prisons provide job and educational programs that prepare them to reintegrate into society.
  • There is a lower turnover of personnel. They worked very hard to get a job with you in the first place, which means they're going to work hard to keep it.
  • To an outsider, your company will be considered a beacon of hope to those who are looking to get their lives straightened out. It can take a lot of courage to give someone a second chance, and by doing so, it can humanize your business.

For those who have never been arrested, it's easy to turn away someone with a stain on their record. However, just because a bad decision was made does not make an individual any less worthy of having something to offer society.

Recall those arrested individuals I listed above. Martha inspired us to find joy in decorating, crafting, cooking, and baking. Johnny was, and always will be, our Man in Black. Gandhi told us to be the change we wish to see in the world. Reese got us hooked on Big Little Lies and her Draper James dresses. Susan helped get American women the right to vote.

We all make mistakes. We all have something to offer in spite of our pasts. Let's not be too quick to judge, shall we?

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