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Launch HN: 70MillionJobs (YC S17) – Job board for people with criminal records
1879 points by RBBronson123 on Aug 2, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 506 comments
Edit: Thank you everyone for the incredible wealth of insightful suggestions. To anyone who wants to continue the conversation, I'd appreciate your pinging me at richard@70millionjobs.com with your continuing ideas, so we can stay in touch. Many challenges lie ahead for us, but your help will keep us on the right track.

Again, on behalf of all the folks with records trying to get on with their lives, and myself personally, thanks again for your incredible support. Richard


Hi HN,

My name is Richard Bronson and I'm the founder/CEO of 70MillionJobs (https://www.70millionjobs.com). Our website is the Internet's first job board for 70 million Americans—1 in 3 adults—with criminal records.

I'm something of a domain expert in this area because I myself have a criminal record. In the early 1990s, I worked on Wall Street and some of what I did was illegal. For a time I was a partner at the infamous Wolf of Wall Street firm, Stratton Oakmont (Scorcese film). I ended up with a 2 year Federal prison sentence. I was guilty.

I experienced first hand how difficult it was to get on with life after going through the "system." I served as Director at Defy Ventures, a great non-profit in the reentry space, but was interested in a scalable solution to ex-offender unemployment and resultant recidivism. I felt a new, for-profit, tech-based approach was necessary, so I launched 70MillionJobs. We're seeking "double bottom-line" returns: make money and do social good.

Like most job boards, our business model is based upon employers paying to advertise their jobs. We expect additional revenue to come from municipalities, who spend tens of billions of dollars annually, when someone is rearrested.

You might not be surprised to learn that most formerly incarcerated men and women are petrified to discuss their background with prospective employers. So we created a "safe haven" where all parties knew the score, and applicants could relax knowing that jobs being offered were with companies that accepted their pasts.

Since many of our applicants don't have a laptop or easy access to the Internet, we send out text alerts they can easily respond to. Because most of these folks have limited work experience and limited formal education, we plan on building a video resume platform to accompany their resumes. In person, many of these folks are respectful, bright and personable, so this will show them at their best.

Former career criminal here. Spent 19 years of my adult life in a combination of jail and prison. Longest stint was for 14 consecutive years. Been working in IT for the last 17 years, mostly as a developer. Had a very hard time getting my foot in the door; was denied employment more than once because of my record. Not sure that my current employer is even aware that I have a record, and to be honest I have no plans to reveal that part of my life. Also, knowing that my criminal activities would have life-long consequences was never a deterrent. One thing I know for sure: I’m not what I used to be. Today I live a peaceful and productive life with my wife, enjoy the company of family and friends, and try to stay up-to-date with technology.

I think that what you are doing is a good thing an applaud you for it.

Thanks for sharing. I'm curious if you already knew the tech stuff before/while committing the crimes or did you learn all that after going through the system?

I was lucky. The department of corrections where I did my time provided community college courses. I started by getting my GED then taking basic courses such as writing, math, and social studies. I decided to major in business but changed my major later on to CIS (Computer Information Systems). Managed to accumulate two degrees while in prison: Associate degree in General Studies, and Associate of Science in CIS. The prison system started cutting down on available college courses while I was there. Like I said: I was lucky.

Cutting down on education in prisons seems to me like the exact opposite of what they should be doing.

A for-profit prison industry has no interest in solving the problem. See school-to-prison pipeline, where pupils are incarcerated for infractions in school.


Don't you have to reveal that you're a felon by law?

I ask because we have a student in our CS academy who is in a very similar situation.

It probably depends by state. I was required to reveal I was a felon while on parole. Once I was off parole I no longer had this requirement but... I was constantly faced with the question on my job applications. My approach was always not to lie and only answer the questions asked, adding "will discuss during interview if needed". Twice I made it to the interview only to be rejected after the nature of my crimes were revealed. On two separate occasions I was offered employment, started work, and was later let go because of my felony conviction.

Happened to me too. Went straight to probation though, no prison time. Still, was given a job offer and worked for two weeks then the company asked everyone to do a background check. I was out in two days after that.

Now almost a year into my current full time job. I've been very lucky and fortunate but the threat of a background check will always look in the distance :/ will keep my chin up though.

I was the same on re-entering society. I went ahead and put my convictions on the job apps, as I figured I didn't want to waste time going past the application if the company had a problem with my record.

Funny thing is that my dad told me I'd never get a job by doing that, but I got one two weeks after my release.

Depends on the state. In some, they aren't even allowed to ask (they have to run a background check to find out).

and in other countries they can't even do a background check.

some countries even wipe criminal records after some time.

Oh ya, some countries realize being vindictive twits is counterproductive. Anyways, I was just mentioning that states had their own laws here that provide a bit of protection, if not much.

Can confirm, here a background check is allowed only for specific employment roles that may be affected due to security/working with minors etc.

I just never checked the box.

"Have you ever been convicted of a felony?"

I would just leave it blank. I figured if anyone asked, then I'd humbly explain the circumstances and I could take my chances from there...

Nobody ever asked, and I went about my life. Obviously YMMV.

The irony here is that the more honest a person is the fewer opportunities they will get. Putting this box on an application form selects for the exact opposite of its intention.

Never thought of this!

Very interesting.

I'm sorry to hear of the issues you had getting employment. Must have been awful getting a job, hell when I left my last company with few references it was hard enough... I can only imagine how tough it must have been getting out of jail!

It was very tough getting my first job. I been with my current employer for more than 10 years, and will probably retire from here. Many people don't believe that people change. I know for sure that people change -- unfortunately not always for the better.

From what I understand, it has a lot to do with age. People just outgrow being wild. The prison system is full of 60 year olds who committed crimes in their teens and 20s who are no longer a threat, yet they remain.

I'd say once a man hits 40 or so, they have better shit to do with their lives.

Would you say that people who have been through what you have, generally change for the better? Or for worse?

I think sites like 70MillionJobs are dedicated to the proposition that they change for the better. Do you agree?

I firmly believe people change. Sorry, I know they do. And regardless of the nature of the change, it is fair to say that 10 years on, most people are not who they were before. Beyond about that mark, any prison sentence is nothing more than vengeance.

I witnessed both: people changing for the better, and people changing for the worse. I had a hard time convincing family and friends that my old self was dead. While in prison it was easy to spot those that were genuine. Those that were looking to change their ways and behavior would stick together. I saw good people (people that weren’t career criminals like me) become involved with gang activity while in prison. The peer pressure inside goes against improving yourself. Being a square in prison is much, much harder than being a bad-ass.

Thanks, and congratulations for having the heart to keep fighting.

One thing that I neglected to say was that it was during the time I was on parole when I was unable to get a job. I got a job immediately after I got off parole. In order to meet parole regulations, I enrolled in school (two years in state university) while working part time on jobs having nothing to do with my skills. Once I was off parole the requirement of having to disclose my felony conviction was no longer. I applied for a job, checked the box that said I had a prior felony conviction, was interviewed and never asked about it. Got the job as a software developer.

I really love that you shared your story.

Thanks-it took me a long time (15 years) before I could talk about my past. A combination of shame and fear of doors shutting in my face. When I began opening up, I discovered, counter-intuitively, that people responded with kindness and understanding. I gave them the opportunity to be humane, and almost uniformly they gave me back understanding and support. In a way, I've been very lucky.

What kind of crimes were you committing?

Burglaries, armed robberies, stealing cars, dealing drugs. Did it all as a gang member of an East LA gang -- that's where I got started.

How did you manage to leave the gang life?

Got tired. Really tired. Asked God for help. He did -- can't explain it any other way. I tried to change many times before but always came back to my old life style.

Thanks for sharing this. A compelling story. I am glad you were able to survive and thrive. Inspiring stuff.

Hi Richard, great idea. I'm a UX designer and want to throw out some suggestions on how to improve the experience of the site.

First, use more cheerful/positive messages/visuals. It was a joykill when I checked out your website and there's a sad guy placing his hand on the forehead. Show what's possible. How successful people can be once they get a job.. rather than their current state (unemployment). Don't focus on the current stat, focus on the future desirable state.

Also, you need to put more focus on the jobs. List featured jobs to draw people in. Just list some jobs below the search. This will engage the user to explore the site.

In addition to the above great ideas, here are some stats for you:


The US has about 4.4 percent of the global population and about 22 percent of the global prison population.

The numbers are more startling using a different measure in the report: the prison population rate. Criminologists say this is a reliable way to compare incarceration practices between countries.

The United States had the highest prison population rate in the world, at 716 per 100,000 people. More than half of the countries and territories had rates below 150 per 100,000. The United States had a much higher rate compared to other developed countries: about six times Canada’s rate, between six to nine times Western European countries, and between two to 10 times Northern European countries.

So, I will suggest you work hard to frame it as "Many American citizens have a criminal record for the crime of being an American citizen. The system is broken and many people with criminal records really don't deserve to have them at all."

In other words, don't tell them "give a criminal a second chance." Tell them that many people with criminal records simply shouldn't have them and you are making a terrible mistake to hold that against them, both in practical terms by cutting out talent from the hiring pool for specious reasons, and in moral terms because you are denying someone an opportunity to recover from having been shafted by a broken system to begin with.

FYI: I'm a copywriter by trade.

>In other words, don't tell them "give a criminal a second chance." Tell them that many people with criminal records simply shouldn't have them...

That's a very interesting approach, but I believe a hard sell to potential employer. As true as it may be, an employer is more likely to appreciate the individual who says this is my background, this is what I learned and this is my vision of my own future...rather than, it's not my fault, I'm a societal statistic.

In fact, despite the ideas of US prison overcrowding and for profit drive conviction rates...I'd argue the opposite, that it's very likely the employer has already hired individuals who have committed various "crimes" and could but simply don't have records.

I know it's stance but all you need to do it look at the number of reported crimes (serious, not victimless like many would argue about drug possession) and the total prison population.


prison population = ~ 2.2M inmates

Every year in the US 60,000 children are sexually abused; ~220,000 adults sexually abused or raped; ~19,000 military members experience unwanted sexual contact. [1]

US prisons only seem over crowded until you see the number of violent crimes in the country, it basically works out to a sexual assault/rape every 90 seconds, it's pretty disturbing.

[1] https://www.rainn.org/statistics/scope-problem

Suggesting that the website frame it that way in no way suggests individuals should frame it that way. How an individual frames it should be highly context dependent.

As long as they aren't an ongoing threat to anyone, they deserve a job. In fact, having a job will make most of them less of a threat to society. "I need my job" is an excellent reason to behave. "The system has fucked me and it makes no difference what I do, I remain fucked" is an excellent reason to quit bothering to try.

You can become a registered sex offender in many states after a public urination citation. In my home state, you can get a DUI as a 100% sober driver if your alcoholic girlfriend or passenger brought an opened container of alcohol. It's possible that the violent crimes are overly broad as well and include things like "mean looks".

> In my home state, you can get a DUI as a 100% sober driver

That is insanely stupid, if they're calling it an actual DUI. If you're not Under the Influence... how can it possibly be a DUI?

Ugh... Make up another regulation about open containers, but don't call it a DUI, because it's not, if you're sober.

If someone opened a container, in the backseat, while you're driving, perhaps without even your knowledge, you can get a DUI. Insane.

Not everyone in prison is there because of violent crime.

Even stronger - the majority of people in prison are not there because of violent crime.

Be careful about making the incarceration debate a non-violent offender issue.

The issue is more complicated: plea bargains, additive sentencing, predatory prosecution, lack of public defense, and many issues..

You Americans have a lot of things to fix, there is no simple solution.

I don't think that's true: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/7/26/16008508/m... contains the statistic that 52.9% of state prisoners in the US are in there for a violent crime

Prison population per 100k isn't the same as criminal record per 100k. It could be that other countries enforce laws differently. Eg if the US has longer sentences on average and let's fewer people out on parole or out early then their prison population will be much higher even if the crime rates are identical.

"Many American citizens have a criminal record for the crime of being an American citizen."

It's better to have the tone of people owning up to their actions and then moving forward rather than saying the US is just giving out criminal records like candy and it's not anybody's fault.

You are so right on all your comments. Soon we'll be re-doing the entire site. Perhaps we can talk in several weeks?

I'd add that framing the hiring decision as charity ("giving someone a second chance") could be improved. I'd go for more of a "diamond in the rough" angle.

"Find talent everyone else is missing."

From personal experience, this has been the most effective pitch. Selling yourself as a potential high value deal based on "below market rents".

Thank you for this great message. It so simply expresses a very basic, affirmative goal to which we aspire. With your permission, I will incorporate it into our site's narrative.

Of course!

That's an incredible tagline

This tagline is excellent. OP, seriously consider it!

Once knew a guy online that had done something stupid when he was a teenager. He was a big, scruffy guy and altogether would've been a hard sell to an employer. But he was exceptionally smart and funny - would make a great colleague - and I bet many employers would've overlooked him.

This should be the site's tagline!

Absolutely, I think many people would be surprised about the quantity of highly-educated, high-experienced, highly-talented felons there are in our society that are exactly just that, "Diamonds in the rough."

Fantastic suggestions for these folks!


Was that tagline from Hamilton, or no?

Agreed. Brilliant tagline.

Also, please reconsider your decision to feature Google and Facebook as prominently as "featured employers". If it's for security, maintenance, and janitorial work, it's more practical to list the agencies that they hire temps from. Otherwise, look no further than nearby East Palo Alto and one will find that neither company particularly cares about rehabilitating ex-offenders or people from at-risk communities for any type of technical employment.

The general rule with Silicon Valley and San Francisco companies is to take everything they say in public or through their carefully worded P.R. with a grain of salt, and actually find out first hand if they practice what they preach hiring outliers with respect to diversity, records/credit/etc, non-Ivy League degrees, etc.

Thanks for the good advice. I'm learning fast. But I have found some truly righteous people here, so I remain hopeful.

In line with that, I think you could also put up a blog section for testimonials, in the near future. IMHO, People need to read stories of how 70million Jobs has helped successful candidates, as that will build confidence in the system.

I'd also get testimonials from employers too: "70MillionJobs helped us XYZ"

In line with advertising success of employers, do any states off employers incentives to hire convicted felons? Tax breaks or similar? If so, advertising this advantage may help. This approach is used by some governments but I'm unfamiliar with what happens in the US, and have really only seen depressing stories previously. Edit: tax breaks are mentioned, found it. It's attractive to employers so it's good it's there.

>do any states off employers incentives to hire convicted felons

Some do, yes. I shared an office who hired ex-cons who got a huge rebate on wages in our municipality (up to 55%). He had 2 or 3 doing office work. Very pleasant people, not that large of an applicant pool however. If we had been hiring at the time (bootstrapping), I would have definitely taken advantage.

Part of our plans. Thanks for the good suggestion

I went through an IT technical degree at a community college. Three of my classmates were timing their graduation to the year their felony fell off background checks.

These guys spent 5 years grinding it out at whatever shit job would hire them just to spend 2 more in school + working with the hope of getting a simple rack & stack job, all because of some mistake they made in their late teens/early twenties. It was the exact same story 3 times, and all involving drug offenses.

It really gave me a different perspective on the situation. I don't think these 3 people should've been sidelined for 7 years. They could've been productive members of society well before that. Keeping them out of the skilled/professional workforce is painful.

This could be a huge untapped pool of candidates, as long as companies are willing to take the risk. I hope it takes off.

Thank you for sharing that. It's a common story. Attitudes are changing quickly, so I hold out hope. I very much appreciate your support.

I want to believe that attitudes are changing and I do believe that more and more people are behind efforts to make it easier for people with a criminal history to find jobs. But I still think that most people are quite NIMBY about it. They'd love for it to be much easier for them to find jobs, but they're still uncomfortable being the ones actually working with them.

Don't get me wrong...I think what you're doing is great, but I think "ban the box" laws that allow criminal histories to be hidden from prospective employers are the thing that's really going to make a difference. Because hiring managers can always find fault with a candidate, either consciously or subconsciously, and playing it safe with hiring decisions is often in their personal interests, even if it's not the right thing to do.

I was a big proponent of the "ban the box" movement, but this article in The Atlantic has given me pause. tl;dr "when employers cannot access an applicant’s criminal history, they instead discriminate more broadly against demographic groups that are more likely to have a criminal record."


I'm curious about "changing attitudes".

Why should I give an opportunity to someone who has gone out of their way to hurt other people over a similarly qualified person who doesn't view other human beings as objects to take advantage of for their own personal gain?

Not sure I have all the answers but your concept of "the right thing to do" seems fairly unexamined.

My personal feeling is that "the right thing to do" is to evaluate applicants without any regard to their criminal history. There should be no box to check on applications and background checks should be prohibited from returning an applicant's criminal record. A person's debt to society is supposed to be their prison sentence and that sentence shouldn't extend beyond their time in prison. If we're giving second chances, we should be giving full chances, not half chances.

I'm not advocating for preferred treatment, just a lack of discrimination against ex-cons. The person who never went to prison should still have the advantage of work experience gained during the period that the felon was in prison. Anything beyond that is, in my view, unfair. I personally believe that the current system is designed, largely by lobbying on behalf of the for-profit prison system, to make it difficult for ex-cons to re-integrate into society and encourages recidivism. Society should want these people to be successful, if only so that they are no longer a financial burden.

I also believe that once people have finished serving their time, their right to vote should be restored. If you're expected to pay taxes and follow the laws of society, you should have your say in how public policy is made.

I recognize that my views are predicated on the idea that our justice and prison systems should aim for reform over punishment. Others will have a more vindictive goal for those institutions. I think the "changing attitudes" that I mentioned are people who are being converted from the vindictive camp to what I see as a pragmatic camp that believes a more compassionate approach will reduce crime and reduce the amount of money the state spends imprisoning people.

I completely agree that this bias is unfair, and that a sentence served, is supposed to be payback to society and therefore your standing should be reset. However, in the real world, once you have "shi* on your shoe", it is not that simple to remove, because humanity is not fair, and therefore society is not fair. This relates to peoples self-generated image of other people.

Excellent points and well argued. If the United States' solution to the lack of living wage employment is to just dump African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans into private prisons and the rest of the unemployed or underemployed into our military, the United States should not get to deprive these people of their vote, even while they serve time in prison. I think the US should have to live with the voting decisions of its prisoners. (we might then think twice about incarcerating whole swaths of people because we can't find a way around offering our people social services for a chunk of the money without turning a profit) I definitely think the eagerness with which we dump people in prison with "intent to sell" and ridiculous mandatory minimums has a lot to do with who we actually want to get a vote in the first place, just right out of the gate. So to me, it makes perfect sense that we harshly stigmatize a person after they have paid "their debt" to society by depriving them (or continuing to deprive them) of the vote, of a voice, of a say in places where they are the minority, and by keeping them unemployed.

(It's crystal clear that we don't want these people voting, not ever!, because it might shift power centers and it might allocate funds to the needy, etc.)

But we prefer the poor to always feel that they are non-people with a "debt" to society; and automatic debt they pay from the day they are born. The thing is, it starts out that way, and we know it to be true. So, we will always see these incarceration measures as punitive; this validates the current power structure and those who benefit from it. And of course that doesn't "work" (if by work we mean "rehabilitate folks), and of course people end up right back in jail -- our society has figured out a great system to keep these people marginalized forever. Other countries who approach incarceration like rehab (Norway?) see actual positive results from its incarcerated populations---but we clearly aren't aiming for positive results for the poor. We are definitely not interested in this data or we would be doing something about it. Heck, it's cheaper for taxpayers! But we don't want it to be cheaper for taxpayers; we (when I say we, I mean those who voices are heard loudly- the wealthy) want profit to those in power while at the same time, ensureing their power endures because they really don't want to deal with the bees escaping from that jar they have shaken for centuries. "We" hate the downtrodden in this country, "we" certainly don't want them to have a first chance, let alone a second chance. When "we" realize this, those of us who care about this and who definitely don't want to be a part of this kind of a "we" will need to speak out and unify. But too many are unable to see the machinery at work making this kind of awareness more difficult, too many buy into a meritocracy that awards them accolades when it does. I would think engineers and scientists, many of them would have an urge to be skeptical of the criminalization of poverty.

It's not about what they did, it's about what they will do. Of course their past is a factor in their future, but you could also view it in a different light: they are perhaps more motivated to succeed, or the automatically closed doors they get from other employers might mean you get better qualified people at a lower price if you take them into consideration.

Besides, I've met enough terrible people who were smart or lucky enough not to get convicted. Being a felon or not is (almost) no indication as to someone's character, just how adept they are at dodging the law.

So do we then assume that people who commit crimes can never be rehabilitated? If committing a crime makes you effectively unemployable except for the lowest common denominator jobs, then once you're convicted of a felony you will be punished for the rest of your life. You're at least implicitly asserting that that is "the right thing to do."

Are you sure you've deeply examined that concept?

At least in the US, their crime may well be something that doesn't obviously harm others (like possessing a small amount of marijuana for personal use, or consensual "sexting" among teens).

It might also make a difference if the crime was committed when they were very young, and they now clearly recognize that it was wrong and something they would not do again. I've never committed a crime or seriously harmed anyone, but there are things I did in my teens/early 20s that it find mortifying at 40.


It would be so great if attitudes were changing quickly in a positive direction. In tech, it is still impossible to get your first job after a career change as a woman, a person of color, or a person over say 35. Many of these people fall into one or all three of these categories. In addition to that, they have this ridiculous other hurdle to clear, and tech is still trying to figure out if women can do any technical work at all. It is great that people are making resources like this-- and for veterans, but I'm afraid that without penalties or major financial advantages for companies supporting "equality" and "diversity" it's gonna take longer than anyone actually has before homelessness. i wish we could find a way to get financial penalties/incentives for moral action to amplify the voices of the marginalized in tech. Ideas? Any takers on a partnership toward this? I'm fed up with companies not being held to account on this score. I may have to join Rosie O'Donnel's womens' party, since it seems it may take that kind of measure.

One of the first ideas might be to talk with people who meet those categories. I for one do not feel marginalized by my company or the tech industry in general (there are a lot, in fact too many, bad apples I've encountered, but the entire industry isn't rotten). In fact I would say I dealt with more bias when I worked in the government than in private tech companies.

For starters what you can personally do is not purchase or use services from companies you feel are unethical. Explain to your network why for example you won't use Uber or Reddit or whatever other company you're fed up. If you can get enough other consumers to see from your view you'll force these companies to change. This just recently happened with health food junkies, now we have McDonald's at least paying lip service to healthy eating and serving things like kale.

One thing that won't work if you're a tech outsider is shaming people who work in the industry. It's hard to collaborate with people if they feel your tone is hostile.

Tech is far less sexist and racist than you think it is. This article isn't about tech specifically, but I think it does demonstrate that if anyone, there is positive-sexism [ed: for women] happening when it comes to recruitment in western workplaces. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-06-30/bilnd-recruitment-tria...

Right now the demographic make up of companies don't match the population, that's true, but these companies do tend to match the demographics of trained programmers. The difference in demographics is from people choosing not to enter tech. If you want to fix the problem, work on training pipelines into tech.

The best way to summarize our different viewpoints is probably "Wanting Equality of Opportunity vs. wanting Equality of Outcome". And-- you assume that if the outcome of tech-demographics is different than the population, then it must be due to racism/sexism. There are other cultural and socio-economic factors that influence the demographics of tech.

You're forgetting to account for people who would be starting out in tech then find an environment that's impossible to work in so they leave the field.

These smart, awesome people never get to be "trained programmers" because attitudes like this allow casual, often unintentional behaviors to ruin their days.

Claiming this is a funnel problem is short sighted. We definitely need people in the funnel, but we also need to ensure they have an amazing time as they integrate into tech culture.

The computer science graduation stats are heavily skewed male. It happens way before the company hiring and first job phase so taking punitive actions at the hiring level is idiotic.

> positive-sexism

What does that even mean? Isn't all sexism bad?

Sexism in favor of the people we're talking about. So, mainsteam thought views women as being the oppressed ones, but the study shows that women tend to get hired at a higher rate than men, simply by having a female name.

Another example of positive-racism-- being a white dude visiting China, I got into night clubs without paying. :-/ But cab drivers also consistently added 50-100% onto the fare.

Maybe it'd be worded better as "reverse sexism"?

Implying that it's "positive" doesn't do any social justice but incites the us vs them, 0 sum game train of thought.

If it's treating people differently on the basis of their gender then it's probably easier to just call it what it is - sexism. Then you can start justifying why this specific incidence of sexism might be a social good.

Fair enough!

not even slightly surprised someone piped in with "tech is far less racist and sexist" than I think it is. Being less of that than I think it is would get an afirmative, supportive response, rather than the knee-jerk denial I have come to expect.

Sorry, I just don't see the evidence. I haven't seen it in my personal experience, and I already laid out my take on the demographics.

Is there evidence I'm missing? Besides my willingness to ask for evidence? :]

Let's clarify that 'your take on the demographics' was an article about Australia that was not specific to the tech industry.

Here's a relevant piece from the Los Angeles Times.

'One example: Google's own data showed women were promoted less often than men because workers need to nominate themselves. Women who did so got pushback. Based on her studies, [Joan C.] Williams [law professor, UC Hastings College of the Law] found that women are rewarded for modesty and penalized for what men might see as "aggressive" behavior. Google began including female leaders at workshops to coach everyone — men and women — on how to promote themselves effectively. The gender difference among nominees disappeared, Williams said.'


so you aren't seeing evidence of institutional racism, sexism, and ageism in tech? Not in your personal experience? When was the last time you reached out to someone in a marginalized group where you work and asked them about it? You might start with that, in fact we could all start right there. And maybe open with empathy and the assumption that their experience of these is true, rather than demanding evidence. I write you now as evidence of these myself, and how do you respond? How does anyone respond in this thread? Is there overwhelming empathy affirmation and support or is there indignant denial of a person's experience?

Nope. I see a lot of support for women and minorities in tech-- both in the form of mentoring events, hiring initiatives, networking events, and general cheerleading. I've talked to a lot of women and minorities in casual friendly drinking contexts, and I haven't heard any horror stories. You're right that I should specifically ask them if they've been on the receiving end of bias, and I'm going to.

Maybe I'm just in test-writing mode, but, if there's a bug, we ought to be able to write a test for it. If there is bias in tech, we ought to be able to see it in data. Maybe we need to look at 1st-job hiring rates? Maybe we need to look at people who drop out of tech after their first year and don't return? But I haven't seen it. I'm not asking you to do this data analysis, I just figured that... there are a lot of people examining this, and it should have been uncovered by now.

How have you experienced racism, sexism or ageism in tech?

FWIW getting into tech as a stereotypical white male is also an uphill struggle. Years of ostracism as a nerd, discrimination in school and early social life. It wasn't a pleasant experience for me and not I expect for many. If anything, computers were a respite from the unpleasantness of social life.

And sadly this lack of socialization and singular focus on computers is often incorrectly attributed to "being on the spectrum" rather than being what it is, a person who withdrew into themselves and computers as the result of maltreatment by their peers in school.

That is a true insight into why there is so much bullying (of women, of other men, of people of color, etc) in tech. I can see how that could really be upsetting throughout a life, and how it could engender a kind of constant (justified) anger. But then one would hope we could all realize this and move toward empathy and support the marginalized, each of us having had these experiences ourselves.

> That is a true insight into why there is so much bullying (of women, of other men, of people of color, etc) in tech.

I don't see how that follows from the parent comment. What do you mean by this?

If it was a bad experience for him, from which computers were a respite, as he said: i understood that he suffered ostracism, social isolation, bullying, and felt exculded and stressed-- unappreciated-- ridiculed-- called a nerd in the negative sense-- that sort of thing. That is painful. If we have an industry made up of men who experienced this in adolescence or in high dchool or even in college, that would be a lot of pain pushed down and covered up with the usual toughness and lack of empathy - a self-protecting measure in the face of abuse. I can see that it is formative for many people, and can be hard to switch off when one finally ascends to accomplishment, wealth, and power. I get that, and I think people should feel angry and hurt by ill treatment, but then try to reshape it somehow with effort into empathy for others who are being treated worse. I'm not saying it is easy, but as the intellectual elite, i think the industry ought to give it a real try-- set an example in a time when examples of empathy and support are more needed than ever.

I don't know what most white people in this country feel, but I can only conclude what they feel from the state of their institutions.--James Baldwin

Presumably your definition of white is the convenient one that includes Asian people, right? Tech hiring has jack all to do with racism when the big companies are matching the ratios coming out of uni with CS degrees.

Obligatory reminder that tech companies at scale are nowhere near 100% CS grads. In most companies where I've worked (me: CS grad) over the last ~20 years, CS (and related) grads were the distinct minority of overall staff.

The population benchmark for "tech hiring" probably should look more like "college graduates" than "people with CS degrees."

That was James Baldwin speaking. I figured he had enough gravitas to present an idea, but even James Baldwin gets pushback on hacker news!

Would you please stop posting these cheap meta snipes to HN about HN? It's tedious, plus it's incongruent to diss a community while you're participating in it.

If you have a substantive point to make, make it thoughtfully; otherwise please don't comment until you do.

"plus it's incongruent to diss a community while you're participating in it."

No. Your attitude here is the crappy one. Without being called out, a community will never grow. It's entirely appropriate to call out a community for the issues it has. And yes, the HN community has a HUGE problem with not recognizing sexism and racism in the industry. Far too many are willing to take the, "I don't see it, so it doesn't exist" point of view, which not only means that things won't improve, but means that they will likely get worse, as those who are doing the bad things are noticing that they can get away with it.

If you don't want people to take snipes at your community, maybe you should look at why people are taking snipes at it, and work to be better.

Yes, agreed. A community that says it wants to be about equality and "meritocracy" would welcome the tough critique. Just like an elite athlete or an accomplished artist would welcome true feedback. Those who want to improve and ultimately excel in certain areas welcome vigorous crit., so they can incorporate that into their training and become better for it. We can't have a meritocracy without equality of opportunity; opportunity includes opportunity in every level of education, and yes within the hiring process. We can have the argument about "affirmative action" and how it might disadvantage a deserving white male who might not make it into the top 100 students at a med school because spaces were made for women and people of color, but then we would have to really think about the society we ultimately want to have. At some point, the rampant inequality needs to be aggressively tackled (with joy) and the knowledge that we are improving the system by promoting diversity and equality of opportunity at every level. I can't think of anything less tedious, as a previous commenter had mentioned. If one is actually interested in leveling the playing field, one would find a wealth of information (with a simple internet search)to support the idea that there is such sexism, racism, and ageism in tech. But the interest has to be there. Maybe more productively, one could examine one's own insecurities about why one would not want to support drastic measures that would help us all get closer to equality of opportunity. Because when people don't support rigorous and thoughtful critique in a discussion format, it really makes one wonder why they are so afraid that these ideas might be true.

And to the person who mentioned that my tone might be aggressive or somehow unpleasant: people have been saying that to the marginalized when they yelp in pain for centuries. Of course, no one wants to hear about how and whom they are actually hurting. They would rather those people play nice and exhibit a welcoming tone. I don't recall anyone worrying about their tone with respect to marginalized groups in tech. They rudely shoot them down, for the most part. That is why women leave tech in droves. And it ain't enough for us to shake our tiny fists by "not buying products" or whatever from these companies. (although, feel free to so) I'd rather the community know that there are actual people within their ranks who call bullshit. I'm sure there are the formerly incarcerated (remember Aaron Swartz would have been among these, as would Snowden, and Assange- so let's not forget about those people being considered "criminals" as well- just a reality check) women, people of color, veterans, and people over 35 in tech who read these threads and don't feel comfortable jumping in. I write here for them, hoping that one day, they will feel supported and comfortable speaking out.

> In tech, it is still impossible to get your first job after a career change as a woman, a person of color, or a person over say 35.

Nope. This is hyperbole (although not completely unfounded).

My department hired a junior female of color coder of color after she completed a coding bootcamp. She wasn't a diversity hire, she was simply the best person for the job at the time. We legitimately needed to fill the position and luckily the company was willing to take a risk on a junior dev. In her previous short career, she was a public school teacher. She's not a "rockstar", a "ninja", or a 100x programmer (neither am I), but she's reasonably good at programming and is curious and driven enough to teach herself whatever she doesn't know.

BTW, we are an early-stage, funded cybersecurity company with a fantastic product in San Jose, CA.

fantastic, that is at least one point for the team! way to go!

Felon here! I'm in a similar circumstanc. Four felony convictions to be specific, 1x drug possession (adderall) 3x trafficking marijuana (same case, multiple counts). I was certainly guilty on all counts. Lost my job after employer found out about the first felony probation (adderall), made some severely short-sighted decisions to supplement my income (traffic marijuana). Anyways it's late and I have company, but TLDR: Job hunting as a felon(for any reason, most don't care to understand the details) it's much more limiting than I would have ever anticipated.

OP: Thanks for starting this, good luck, I've been thinking about doing something similar for a while now!

Quite weird that background check. We have something like that in Belgium but no employer ever asks for it. They actually never even asked to provide proof of my degree.

Only exception government jobs....

I have never heard of a felony falling off a background check. Can you elaborate?

Some states allow for reduction of felonies to misdemeanor offenses after a specific amount of time has passed without re-offending. Many background checks don't reveal misdemeanors.

Just want to add support. One of my childhood friends has a felony from when he was an overly-rambunctious teenager that he still gets punished for - including being kicked off AirBnB - for something he stole more than 20 years ago. Despite this, he's a very successful leader in mental health services management.

So many people deserve a chance to redeem themselves from being 'branded', yet are denied the exact opportunities that would allow them to do so. This problem goes back a long, long ways.[1]

Anything you can do to help is great. Best of luck!

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Branded_Man

Unfortunately some states (eg: Texas) don't allow you to expunge a felony no matter how long ago it was. My sister-in-law's HS boyfriend was a criminal jerk and she got caught up and charged as an accessory for something stupid (theft IIRC). She fully admits she was rebelling by going after a bad-boy. She had a public defender who met with her once and told her to take the deal to get probation. Unfortunately the plea was for a felony.

It's been 20 years, she's married to a good guy and has a baby... yet that black mark still comes up on her record.

Arizona, too, and you’ll find that’s common in tough-on-crime red states. I can petition to have mine “set aside,” but it sticks. I’m fortunate enough to have a great career in the Valley, but it comes up all the time as the upthread comment pointed out.

We are looking into gubernatorial pardon (Arizona has a decent process) but not holding my breath.

This is a pretty common American attitude found in many "non red" states as well: As soon as someone commits a crime--any crime and just once--they become a criminal. It's as if their species permanently changed from human to something else. They're not a human that made a bad decision, they are an "other". Since this new thing they have become is not human, all kinds of inhumane and terrible things can be done to them and justified, including permanent removal of rights, brutalization and rape in prison, permanent loss of employability and access to normal livelihood. All of these things are seen as OK because it's a criminal we're talking about, not an actual person.

The US criminal justice system focuses on punishment and not reform, "the box" on employment applications makes this patently obvious as does the removal of voting rights for felons. All of this stems from exactly what you mentioned, once convicted you are a criminal, that label follows you and there's little you can do to get rid of it.

The first step to improving any of this is changing deeply held beliefs by our society, and many days it feels like an impossible task.

As someone who broke a whole lot of laws in his late teens and got off pretty easy for all of it, I wholeheartedly agree. They could have thrown the book at me but they didn't. Also, it helps if you don't confess to anything and hire a good attorney even if you end up taking a plea.

Let's face it, America sucks in a ton of ways and the biggest crooks are bankers and people in finance--they stole billions and got away with it over and over again. So nothing else quite compares except maybe whatever goes on with the CIA and drugs.

While I agree there are bigger crooks who go unpunished, the solution is not to let the smaller crooks go free, but to also catch the bigger ones. BTW just to be clear, I'm not advocating harsher punishment, just equal punishment.

The issue is not with the severity of punishment, it is with the continuity of punishment.

This is from G.K.Chesterton, around 1907, "The Perpetuation of Punishment":


I will surely look into this. Thanks for sharing.

Love what you are doing. This is the kind of startup I love to see being pushed forward.

With lower entry barriers for tech startups, one would expect to see more startups that fight for a better world, instead of startups who fight for selling your data faster, or detecting your face better to overlay a duckface on top of it.

This is why seeing a startup like yours makes me hopeful.

Wish you best of luck!

Thanks so much for your kind words! I appreciate it.

One of the first things I came across was "Police Officer" in Tallahassee, FL. It's an external link. Part of the description even says:

"Have no convictions for any felony, perjury, false statement, or domestic violence. No DUI convictions past ten years. Other arrest histories are reviewed on a case-by-case basis."

I love the idea, but it needs a bit more work.

Understood. thanks for letting us know. we're on it.

What's the problem specifically with that listing?

Its a listing that excludes candidates with felonies on a job board specifically for candidates with felonies.

The OP specifies only "criminal record", which may include both misdemeanors and felonies, with varying degrees of each.

Some employers care about any criminal record at all, while others care about felony convictions only. The website itself only mentions "criminal record" and "formerly incarcerated".

Perhaps it would be prudent to make filtering easy for "misdemeanors only" jobs and "former felons wanted" jobs?

Many employers make a distinction between felony and misdemeanor convictions. I encourage more dissection than that. Anecdote: I once stood in front of a Judge who had recently gotten so drunk-->Then decided to drive-->he fell asleep in the middle of a busy intersection (misdemeanor dismissed, "improperly calibrated" portable BAC). I was represented by an attorney who was on probation for a misdemeanor at the time of my sentencing(obstruction of justice, helping facilitate the attempted payment of hush money to a rape victim).

It made my 1.5Lb sale of marijuana (felony) not seem so harmful.

I didn't see any mention of it being only for felons.

"Have no convictions for any felony..."

"Job board for people with criminal records"

Everyone with a speeding ticket has committed a misdemeanor. The site is very obviously geared towards people with felony records.

I don't know about your state, but in California, speeding (along with most other traffic violations) is an infraction, not a misdemeanor, and doesn't show up on a criminal record search.

This presents an interesting dilemma here for an ex-con. Most people can eventually get their records expunged after they're out for a while, at which point we as a society demand that they start responding "no" to the questions about having a criminal record during the interview process. It's dishonest but it's how the legal system works.

If you're an ex-con who will eventually get his record expunged, is there any risk to participating in a job board like this? I'm guessing it is pretty small, and the advantages presented by the site will be worth it. Still, it's ironic that eventually users will probably be in a position (after expungement) where it is not in their interest to use the site anymore. I wonder if, when this site is successful, it will eventually want to team up with a more conventional job site to move some of those users over. Just a thought.

Remember that many states do not allow expunging records no matter how old (eg: Texas). For some people a conviction will follow them literally for the rest of their lives.

If I remember correctly Texas has at least one thing that can be done, an ex-con can petition the court to seal their records, which is similar in effect. (a pre-employment background screening place cannot report expunged or sealed records) I don't really know what the politics are like in Texas but I suspect getting that done isn't easy...

Like a lot of legal matters, it's probably more dependent on whether you can afford to have it done.

...or team up with rehabilitation organizations. Unfortunately there's no shortage of ex-prisonners in USA: About one third of the people in age of working.

What's dishonest (and what's demanded?) about honestly stating that one has no criminal record (since the record was deleted)?

The question is sometimes phrased in a way that requires the applicant to lie. "Have you ever been convicted of a crime," etc.

Change the wording of the question slightly, and answering 'No' to it becomes dishonest.

The change in wording may be illegal, but good luck proving that to anyone who cares.

In a past job I was responsible for hiring a few warehouse workers, and in one case I was actually relieved to find that the applicant was on probation for a drug charge, and was required to submit to weekly urine tests. Basically the state was paying to guarantee that this worker was staying clean, and so I was pretty confident about hiring him. I wonder if other employers would be interested in that kind of info as well.

Great point. I think the problem is that employers often use boilerplate conditions, and requirements are more stringent than the job would require.

Very interesting take on this

Urinalysis as a service has got to be a thing already. Probably a partnership deal. Maybe LabCorp or Quest. Just stay away from Theranos :) If not, we could probably russle you up a chemist if you're willing to front the immunoassays and mass spectrometer. Or microfluidics. Then Theranos might be interested...

Considering the number of friends who repeatedly and confidently pass state mandated drug tests, I would not trust that at all.

I think this is awesome, and I was relieved to see the focus on non-white collar crime. Some questions that I think are systemic to the entire area -

The companies hiring are at somewhat of an advantage (they can hire anyone, the employees have more limited options). How do you ensure they get a fair offer, and not, like migrant labor, receive a below market offer? Would the marketplace effect here help prevent that? (edit - looking at the website, duh, it looks like you've solved this - awesome - and found good companies.)

Your revenue model is based on companies laying to get access to these prospective employees - how do you get past the stigma (without breaching q1 above)?

I like the municipality revenue model - it would be awesome to see them as "reverse recruiters" we're they pay every time someone gets a job.

>How do you ensure they get a fair offer, and not, like migrant labor, receive a below market offer?

This will be legal employment, so hopefully the abuses resulting from migrant employment won't happen, but the salary they are getting will be below the "normal" market price, at least for a long time - and this is a good thing, since they would otherwise not be hired at all.

We can't ensure they get a fair offer, other than by providing information and access to resources to address such injustices. I judge our success one job at a time, and one repaired family at a time.

Oof - unsolicited advice, but that combined with your acknowledgement of racism in the system will have some people calling you the plantation market. Even though you're not saying it explicitly, what I just read is that implicitly your revenue model is based on giving companies access to a below market cost labor force that's predominantly POC. While I lean towards the idea that its better they have access to a job than not, I think it's also vital to pursue full wages, rather than partial wages despite their debt to society being paid.

Not below market at all. There's great demand for this labor, and it's driving wages up, if anything. The real effective response, I think, is providing training for jobs that pay much more than minimum wage. That's something we're working on, at scale. More on this at a later date.

Negative bias towards those with records--along with a healthy dose of racism--is certainly at play, but I see the zeitgeist moving swiftly in the right direction. But it's a challenge, for sure.

I just randomly came across this very relevant TED talk given by a prison inmate yesterday:


I definitely feel that American prison policy leans way too far on the side of moral judgement and retribution than rehabilitation. In my personal opinion, anyone who has served their term has already paid for their mistakes and we, as a society, should be more concerned with helping them get back on their feet than with further punishing them for their mistakes.

I also think the practice of denying former felons the right to vote is completely ridiculous. So if you commit a felony at 18, you can't vote even when you're a 100? What kind of sense does that make?

I think much of the American sentiment is prejudicial -- if you broke the law once, you can't be trusted not to do it again. We love to grab our pitchforks and burn an 'evil-doing criminal' at the stake. It doesn't matter that they 'paid for what they did' -- they might do it again, so why ever let them see the light of the day? Inhumane? Yea sure, we can be nice to 'them' if you want, just NIMBY! I have CHILDREN for heavens sake!

Just look at the comments on any news article of anyone being arrested. As far as the general public is concerned, they're already guilty and are lucky we even let them keep breathing. Rarely will you read an article about the charges being dropped later, or the person acquitted. Nobody cares at that point.

The idea is that a felony is so egregious that you permanently lose some of the rights of civil society. Another right taken away forever is the right to own a firearm. The problem is that everything is a felony now.

Well that’s what happens when you have a prison-industrial complex!

<So if you commit a felony at 18, you can't vote even when you're a 100?

I can tell you with 100% certainty that there are felons that vote. I believe the system in our county is not perfect and thus mails out a voter registration to a convicted murderer that served his time and is now free.

It also depends on the state.

Florida has a process for felons convicted of certain crimes to have their civil rights restored -- right to vote, own a gun, etc...

I'm super-excited to see this. I really hope it works out. Thanks for doing it.

Honestly I find how this country treats those with a felony record absolutely disgusting. The "Are you a convicted felon?" is a scarlet letter that never seems to disappear. While this might've originally been well-intentioned, IMHO it perpetuates criminality as I suspect what other choices do a lot of former felons have?

There was (is?) a campaign in Massachussetts to retroactively pardon a felony conviction for Mark Wahlberg. Apparently this makes it difficult to, say, get liquor licenses and so forth.

Personally I"m 100% against a commutation for the rich and famous. What we should be doing is freeing people from this stigma, particularly when the crime was a long time ago, especially nonviolent and likely not relevant to your job.

FYI Mark Wahlberg's felony conviction was violent and pretty egregious actually as it was IIRC a racially-motivated attack on a Vietnamese man.

yeah, Wahlberg's crime is an interesting case -- the kind of violent crime most people think merits a severe punishment. and yet, he's a wealthy movie star today. American justice, folks.

oddly enough, it happened in Massachusetts of all places, a state i expect to take this sort of hateful crime more seriously. maybe it would nowadays. that particular violent attack happened a while back.

regarding licensing: the rumor i heard (for what it's worth) was that Wahlberg recently wanted to become certified as an actual officer on a local auxiliary or reserve police force for some new show he was planning. but, as a convicted felon, he is not eligible.

Boston. Ah Boston. For an entertaining account of some of Boston's history of racial conflict, I recommend the 2-part Dollop podcast about the bussing conflict:



It sounds more like a bad disaster movie than recent American history.

Massachusetts...has always had a high incidence of racism. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boston_busing_desegregation.

Wow, that is surreal. It is hard to believe this, from Marky Mark / Smooth Vibrations. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AO9909uexu8

> So we created a "save haven" where all parties knew the score

Does that mean that employers know what offenses were committed, and how long ago? Or does it just mean that they know that the candidate has been convicted of something, but figuring out whether that's a liability to the business or not needs to be discussed?

Aside from any legal/HR consideration, we feel that everyone deserves a second chance, so we don't discriminate based upon the nature of the crime (but believe me, this is not an easy issue to reconcile). Ultimately, it'll be between the applicant and employer to resolve this. As it relates to liability to the business, there's a federal bonding program that has existed for decades, indemnifying employers from making at-risk hires. Interestingly, over this period of time, only just a few claims have every been made. The facts are that folks with jobs almost never recidivate. In fact, studies are now showing that these folks, for certain jobs, actually may be better employees. Hiring them is very good business.

My father owns a retail business that has four stores and employs a bunch of hourly workers. After growing up around the business and working there in my teens and twenties, I feel pretty confident that the risk of a second-chance felon is probably no more than the risk of any average off-the-street hourly worker. Bad apples show up all of the time. They steal a little money or some inventory, get fired, and life goes on. The risk is far greater for an ex-con: why would they risk going back to prison and losing a good job that gave them a second chance over a little money in the register or some inventory?

Your father's experience is no exception, and you're right. Generally speaking, given the opportunity, these folks stay out of trouble.

No, we don't inquire as to the nature of their crime(s). Aside from it opening a wasp nest's of legal issues, I personally believe that everyone deserves a second chance. (and certainly don't believe that I should stand in judgement of anyone). Ultimately, like an job board or HR resource, there's stuff an employer and prospective employee will have to hash out. My mission was/is to create an efficient marketplace that allows employers (especially large ones) to consider hiring this population at scale. Many have suggested some kind of vetting process, which I know would help the top 10% appliers, but I think they'd probably find success anyway. I'm not sure that it's fair to require someone who's already done their time to have to pass another test, just to get a job to feed his/her family. No easy answers here.

If you find that someone does not have any criminal history and is using your boards to apply for jobs, what action might your company take?

I love the idea, and I really want your company to succeed. I don't really consider myself very easily offended or PC, but I thought it seemed a little stereotypical that the first two images in the hero were black people. I think that should be changed as quickly as possible if you don't want to get any backlash. My two cents : )

I appreciate this observation, but our prisons are predominately filled with people of color.

The majority of images (and there are not many) seem to be black. The hero images, the About pages, all young black people. The only white person is the CEO (which show up predominately on the blog and about the team)

As others have mentioned, our prisons are not predominately filled with people of color (although, I'm sure many people would believe that to be). A bit more diversity would definitely be nice ;)

Really? From what I understand, the number of black inmates in prison is roughly equal to the number of white inmates (about 40%/40%). There is a large disparity in terms of the incarceration rate of people of color, but your above statement is not true.

Yeah, but "people of color" doesn't only refer to black people--the other 20% are also people of color. So 60-40, and it's true that US prisons are predominantly populated with people of color.

That seems like splitting hairs. Obviously I can do the math, and I'm not saying there aren't more people of color in prison, I'm saying that it's not just black people, as the website would have you believe.

hmmm, is this correct? It seems the real proportion is 39/40/19 among Whites/Blacks/Hispanics.


From The Bureau of Justice Statistics, the "Prisoners in 2015" report, table 8, page 13 [0]:

>Percent of sentenced prisoners under the jurisdiction of state or federal correctional authorities, by age, sex, race, and Hispanic origin, December 31, 2015

446,700 white male prisoners 501,300 black male prisoners 301,500 hispanic male prisoners 122,400 other male prisoners

Which means male adults of color (925,200) make up more than double the male white adult (446,700) state/federal prison population.


The more disturbing statistic being that 1,745/100,000 black adults are incarcerated, compared to 317/100,000 white adults.

Female incarceration rates do not follow this same trend identically according to the data, and they make up only ~7% of the total correctional population.

Hey Richard, love this idea. I firmly believe in the notion that once you've paid your debt to society you should be able to participate in society as anyone else would. That this is not the fact is atrocious to me.

Do you need a remote full-stack programmer?

how is doing time "repaying a debt to society"? Seems to me incarceration is a proving ground to show you're no longer dangerous, _then_ one can begin to repay whatever injustices occurred?

That's not how it's framed in the US. Incarceration is purposefully made as horrible as possible (rape, beatings, inedible food, solitary confinement) to ensure full debt repayment prior to release.

I agree, it's disgusting, but that's the status quo.

Also how is eye for an eye "repayment" . If someone steals my car I dont want them raped-- I want my car back, plus a few bucks to cover the taxis I took while it was gone.

Thank you for your insight. When the dust settles, we should talk.

Another full stack dev here, I would also love to help with something meaningful. Feel free to PM me in the future, if I can be of assistance. Remote, from Canada, Pacific timezone.


The REAL problem, however, is the quality of jobs available to felons. If this board is filled with nothing more than labor and call-center jobs then, you've only solved part of the problem. The true goal is to connect felons with sympathetic employers in ALL manner of jobs. There is nothing like a felony to destroy a person's sense of self-worth and the system is completely rigged against a felon. This is bigger than a technological problem. It is a problem of humanity and forgiveness.

Richard, another thought I had:

There is a tax break for businesses that hire a new parolee. Something like $4-5k tax credit for the first year of employment. Would be good to find out about that and let employers know - help encourage them to hire criminals.

Yeah, agreed, they're called WOTC's (Work Opportunity Tax Credits) and they are significant tax benefits. Some municipalities will also kick in money towards initial salaries, so there's compelling reasons to hire this population.

Do you employ people with criminal records?

As an employer, I want to hire the best people so my company can be successful. Why would I hire anyone from your site when there are plenty of other candidates elsewhere?

Do you think people will try to use your site to disqualify potential hires (i.e. use it as a do-not-hire list so those registered with the site can specifically be avoided)? How will you prevent this from occurring?

Why would a company that doesn't care about criminal records advertise with you? Wouldn't it make more sense for them to advertise on a generic job board, take the best resumes, and sort out criminal history issues as they arise?

Does your site allow employers to see what a job seeker's crime was, or any other info related to that that other job boards wouldn't provide?

"As an employer, I want to hire the best people so my company can be successful. Why would I hire anyone from your site when there are plenty of other candidates elsewhere?"

Not associated with that company but one reason to hire a convict is that you get a pretty decent tax break[0] out of it


Why would having a criminal record automatically preclude you from hiring these folks?

Hell, Hans Reiser wrote a great filesystem and he murdered his wife. John Draper and Kevin Mitnick would probably both be good hires for certain roles. Steve Jobs could've been easily arrested for drug use.

> Why would I hire anyone from your site when there are plenty of other candidates elsewhere?

Someone with criminal record has something to prove, so will be grateful for the job and work hard.

> 1 in 3 adults—with criminal records

I must admit I haven't ever thought about these numbers but it strikes me as insanely high. How can this be explained? Is it a feature of just America or is it reproducible in other countries as well?

This is from 2002, but it makes the point:

"... that almost a third of men [in Britain] have a criminal conviction by the age of 30, according to the Home Office. Research on men born in 1953 showed that about 30 per cent had clocked up a standard list offence - one that is dealt with by the courts but excludes minor motoring offences - by their thirtieth birthday. Research in Scotland points in the same direction, suggesting that about 25 per cent of men have a record by age 24."


Wow, and that was for people born in 1953(!!).

The net cast by law enforcement has not gotten smaller since then.

It's easier to rule over people who live in fear, so just make more things illegal, process people through the system, and you get your total state without anyone raising an eyebrow.

Oh they raise eyebrows. The kind that come along with thunderous applause.

Right you are. The US has 5% of the world's population, and 25% of the world's incarcerated population. Per capita, more than China, Iran, N Korea.

In fact they're not right.

The parent is confusing criminal record with incarceration duration. The UK has nearly just as high of a criminal record ratio among adult men for example. The difference is the US assigns far longer incarceration times for the same crime vs the UK. Further, Europe as a whole has a higher crime rate than the US does. [1]

70 million jobs has plenty of room for international expansion accordingly.

"[2011] Contrary to common perceptions, today both property and violent crimes (with the exception of homicides) are more widespread in Europe than in the United States, while the opposite was true thirty years ago. We label this fact as the ‘reversal of misfortunes’."

[1] https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1889952

Great data. Thank you for sharing. The US is also the only country that employs solitary confinement for juvenile inmates.

Interesting paper. From the abstract: We find that the demographic structure of the population and the incarceration rate are important determinants of crime. Our results suggest that a tougher incarceration policy may be an effective way to contrast crime in Europe.

if i'm reading that right, they're suggesting that European incarceration policies/rates/sentences (or something) are too lenient (?). so, Europe has the opposite problem when compared to the US?

Yes, that happens when you lock up five times as many people per capita, crime goes down a bit. Hardly surprising, there's nothing mysterious as to why.

Keep in mind that the exploding US prison population started in the 1990s; 'thirty years ago' is before this happened.

Thanks for citing your sources! Much appreciated

With the immigration crackdowns by the Trump administration, we've seen more and more stories about labor shortages in agricultural jobs often performed by immigrants. The problem has reached the point where wages have been increasing. Do those with criminal records consider these jobs? Why or why not?

I would imagine that agricultural jobs would be low-risk for those types of employers since those with criminal records are unlikely to be interacting with customers or exposed to high value inventory. Both of which are characteristics of a job that would give employers pause about hiring someone with a criminal record.

Unskilled agricultural work is the lowest-of-the-low. In Georgia they cracked down on using illegal immigrants, and it cost them their peach harvest, because locals won't do that kind of hard-to-reach (rural), low-paying, short-term/seasonal work.

A similar thing is happening here in my home state in Australia. The government introduced a new tax on the backpackers that traditionally filled out the fruit-picking workforce. The fruit-pickers cried foul about how the government was now strangling them... but this story has a twist: the fruit-pickers have been treating the backpackers like shit, withholding pay, for enough years for word to get around that it was no longer worth doing.

In short, local residents don't want to do short-term seasonal work under poor working conditions - unskilled agricultural jobs really suck. Not to mention that you're not going to draw city-dwellers out to the farm if they're poor enough to be attracted to that kind of work - who is going to give up their home for short-term work? Only those folks who don't have any roots put down; that is, people who are already travellers of some kind.

Longer-term agricultural work can attract people more easily, since they'll have an ongoing income and can put roots down.

I was curious about local jobs, so I put in "Minnesota" and get to https://www.70millionjobs.com/search/-/Minnesota – but then when I put more search terms into keywords I keep getting the same results (including keywords that I can tell have associated jobs). I'm guessing it's falling back to ZipRecruiter entirely, but it's also not searching those entries.

Thanks for this question. We are not yet working in Minnesota (we're currently focused on CA and NY Metropolitan area), so search results outside those parameters are not good. We're working on it.

I very much like what you're doing for those of us who've made wrong choices in the past. However, I am a little bit concerned what drives a company to go to a site -especially made for those people- looking for future employees.

The hardest workers are people who are (re)building their lives from nothing... Largely immigrants and ex-cons.

In my experience, that's a very true observation

Great question. First of all, while we believe that there's a morality issue here, along with good corporate citizenry, ultimately, we have to serve a viable HR value to corporate America. In fact, there are some 6 million jobs currently unfilled in this country--many of the sort our applicants would excel at. Not filling jobs costs businesses enormously. So we hope to bring that value. At the same time, progressive companies conscious of their corporate issue may feel (or may not) that making an affirmative statement like this hold inherent value, as well.

Richard, a suggestion:

Have a way for parole/probation officers to search for jobs nearby for their charges. My PO was actually a helpful guy, as he figured if I was working, I was more likely to stay out of trouble. Just have some way for them to engage and provide assistance to new parolees.

Another great suggestion. We have begun working with parole/probation offices who frequently are incredibly passionate professionals committed to making a difference. At some point we'll offer a white label platform for them to track employment opportunities, employers, etc. Many still operate off of an excel spread sheet.

Are you sure those jobs all hire felons?

I browsed my State and saw jobs for physicians, pharmacists, and even a school psychiatrist.

was going to comment on this but will add on to yours. many states prohibit felons and even some non felons but with criminal records from certain fields that require occupational licensing.

do you have methods in place or planning to filter jobs with such restrictions as not all states adhere to the same rules.

great idea btw

Just curious, how do you know that the job postings you're listing accept those with criminal backgrounds?

Is this a list of curated companies? Or is there something that you're parsing out that denotes this acceptability?

There may be several factors going into this; for example, in the Bay Area, positions in the city of SF are prohibited from considering conviction history that is not "directly related" to the job. It also suggests specific language for including this information on job postings and corporate websites.

I would love to hear from company founders about what factors they use to discover this information in their external job listings that are not on jurisdictions like this.

Source: http://www.millerlawgroup.com/publications/alerts/San-Franci...

I'm curious about this as well because the two listings I clicked on had requirements like "must be able to pass a criminal background check" and "must have stable work history" as their first hiring criteria.

The site as it stands doesn't, as looking at the site currently has plenty of jobs that requires passing a criminal background check. It appears this site is more idea than execution at this point.

A friend of mine finally had his record cleared of incidents from when he was 19-20. He took courses to learn to program but even now it's still hard for him to get a job because people want to know about the huge gap in his employment history from when nobody would hire him.

"Personal crisis."

I was a homemaker for a lot of years. I also happened to be too sick to hold down a job during that time, but homemaker sounds so much better on a resume.

Find a preferably true and accurate description that is palatable to employers. Then realize it is tough all over at the moment. LOTS of people are having trouble getting hired at all.

Do you mind if I ask if you're a woman? IIRC there's pretty substantial hiring discrimination against men who claim to be homemakers (because it's less common so people assume that they're lying). The other side of the coin obviously being that women with kids are discriminated against in hiring due to assumptions that they'll be distracted by their family obligations.

Yes, I am a woman. No need to ask: It is listed in my profile.

Also: I did not suggest a man call himself a homemaker. So, I am not sure what the point of your comment is.

> Also: I did not suggest a man call himself a homemaker. So, I am not sure what the point of your comment is.

Uh, I'm not sure where this hostility is coming from. Just because someone responds to your comment doesn't mean they're disagreeing with you. I was just adding the context for anyone who sees your comment and interprets it narrowly as thinking that putting 'homemaker' on their resume gap is a useful way to explain it away without understanding the pitfall for 50% of the workforce.

I don't see why you are calling that hostility. You could have made the point you made here without implying I was suggesting that some man should go with that framing.

I am quite open about my gender. Lots of people recognize that I am female. Those that don't can easily determine my gender by clicking into my profile. I have zero reason to believe people will interpret my remark to mean that men should call themselves homemakers.

Do people care about that if he does freelance work? Or has he mostly looked for employment? And if so, why not freelance?

At least in my neck of the woods (Western Europe) it's (relatively) easy to find programming work as a contractor/freelancer, and as far as I can tell employment history doesn't matter, at least not in the 'web' space of programming.

Your friend just needs to say he was doing consultant work for himself during these periods.

And he can, honestly, say that he sucks at getting clients for his consulting, but that he is good at coding.

"I can't discuss who my other clients are with you, but I'd be happy to talk to you about the challenges I faced."

Proceed to bullshit.


You mean his crimes? No need to abstract reality.

Doesn't "had his record cleared" make it obvious that we're talking about his crimes? This seems needlessly pedantic.

Isn't yet another case that startup is trying to fix systematic screwup of law in the USA?

In USA once you got criminal record, by default it stays for rest of life with you. Implications of that may be even more severe than actual punishment.

On the other hand in most of the European countries criminal records are limited and after X years they disappear and you can't legally discriminate based on that.

Some ppl will do something stupid at some point in their life and get a criminal record. Not giving them another chance is a major problem and actually can cause a lot of damage for everyone.

> In USA once you got criminal record, by default it stays for rest of life with you.

You have no idea what you are talking about.

> On the other hand in most of the European countries criminal records are limited and after X years they disappear and you can't legally discriminate based on that.

This is something that varies state by state in the United States. In general, misdemeanors can be removed from your record faster than felonies and if they could they'd put a big red 'A' on your chest for sex crimes. Some places will clean your record automatically and some will requre you to contact the courts. But again, varies state by state, or even county by county.

>Isn't yet another case that startup is trying to fix systematic screwup of law in the USA?

Two thoughts:

1) "systematic screwup of law in the USA" is a pretty good description; another might be "massive market opportunity"

2) "startup trying to [take advantage of market inefficiencies created by] systematic screwup of law in the USA" is also a pretty good description of drug traffickers of all kinds. (I'm not passing judgment; just making an observation. The meta observation is that you can't cheat reality, so when law gets out of whack the gap between Ideal and Actual creates an inefficiency, which savvy entrepreneurs can profit by bridging).

>systematic screwup of law in the USA" is a pretty good description; another might be "massive market opportunity"

The way Americans have the capacity to acknowledge something intrinsically fucked up about their society, and see it as a business opportunity regardless is something I both admire, and despair over.

Glad I'm not the only one that feels that way..

On #2, you could say the same thing about all black markets.

I don't know about being "yet another case..." This is something that has affected me, my family and many friends square on, and I'm compelled to try to improve things. There are more and more people like you who clearly "get it," so I have hope.

Even though this shouldn't be a problem (in that I agree that this is a policy issue in a lot of ways) I think that this could create more momentum for a fix by bringing this issue to light. They could potentially put themselves out of business (eventually, not any time soon) by de-stigmatizing a criminal record.

amen, my brother (or sister)

"Not giving them another chance is a major problem and actually can cause a lot of damage for everyone."

To build on this: disallowing them from becoming productive members of society means that they're that much more inclined to revert to a life of crime.

> our business model is based upon employers paying to advertise their jobs.

The only question I have is: why would they? I can see the reason why the job seekers would subscribe to your website but I don't see why employers would prefer it to other alternatives. Actually I can see one: to be able to identify which candidates have a criminal record and eliminate them from their pool.

Registering there as an employer can be an act of good will and generosity but that seems a bit awkward to make them pay for it, no?

BTW, you have to have a very solid security from the beginning. A leak of your database would not only threaten your business but negate most of the good you did.

Because it expands the pool of applicants. It's a way of getting access to people who otherwise might not apply (and who are probably willing to work for less).

I'm looking forward to hearing your feedback and am happy to answer any questions about 70millionjobs, the challenges faced by people with criminal records, and ideas you may have to improve our site.

I gotta say, as fucking annoying as I find most of you people on other topics, I am so thrilled to see your support for a cause such as this one. You almost killed the cynic in me :) Go hackers!

And as someone new to both HN and the tech culture in general, I'm stunned by both the intelligence of the comments offered and the soul behind them. Doing this work has definitely done my heart good.

Testing out the Job Search functionality, there seems to be some room for improvement for returning more relevant results first. Doing a quick test against a keyword search for "developer", I would much rather see all results with developer in the job title first. Instead seeing a lot of top results that are not relevant, some which I can't find a form of the word "develop" anywhere in the full job description, much less the job title.

Great concept and great start!

Yeah, the job search functionality needs lots of work. Like pretty much all job boards, we engage in scraping of other sites (along with our own jobs). While we try to filter based on geography, job type and "second-chance friendly," we get results that don't conform. Like you, I see all that needs improvement, and promise to make it much better. Please make sure to check in periodically and share what we can be doing better.

Hey, thanks for sharing this. I actually just wrote an article (not yet published) for an organization that helps inmates learn how to code while in prison so they can have some life skills for when they are done serving their time and get out in the real world.

I'm not talking about murderers or pedophiles or people who just probably don't belong in society at all, but when it comes to people with lesser crimes -- people who got greedy, people who were stupid and stole something, or even were involved with drugs (I'm an advocate for decriminalization), people who can be given a second chance and not resort to a life of returning to old habits.

The organization's URL is: https://thelastmile.org/

Another URL I came across: http://jobsthathirefelons.org/

Anyways, hope you don't mind, but I've added your URL to my article as well. I'd rather see productive ex-cons/former felons contribute to our society and not be relegated to a position at a minimum wage job for the rest of their lives, despite having massive amounts of skills and talents that can be used elsewhere.

I don't mind at all, and I'm very familiar w/The Last Mile, and consider it good company to be in.

I teach college classes for a degree-granting program on occasion and have taught murderers. They are in prison doing their time, and some will eventually be paroled. They can be given a second chance as well.

>> We expect additional revenue to come from municipalities, who spend tens of billions of dollars annually, when someone is rearrested.

I'm curious - while I agree that it also benefits the municipalities to help former criminals reintegrate into productive society, through what channel do you see expect this revenue to come? I know some tax breaks exist for hiring ex-cons, but dishing out funds to a service like this would be entirely new, right?

I ran a search and a few banking jobs came up, one of which mentioned going through a fingerprint background check. I find it hard to believe the US Bank in SF would take me seriously for a teller opening if I had any sort of hangups in my background.

I guess this is more of a feature request but... It would be great if you could filter out job postings that were likely just scraped or aggregated from other places!

Nice work btw, a great start for a much needed service

Thanks for your kind words. Yeah, our search algorithm needs lots of work. It'll get there.

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