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As labor pool shrinks, prison time is less of a hiring hurdle (nytimes.com)
180 points by el_benhameen 41 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 152 comments

I read this article with interest. 70MillionJobs is a for-profit recruitment platform for people with criminal records. Our goal is to match the huge pool of untapped talent (those with records) with employers that have urgent HR needs. In this capacity, my team and I engage with large, national employers, so I think we have a strong sense of where the corporate zeitgeist lies regarding hiring the formerly incarcerated.

While the Times author points to a historically low rate of unemployment and cites business conditions in Dane County, WI, this willingness to hire men and women with records does not generally exist with large, national employers. Nearly all of them have internal criteria relating to who they will or will not hire, based upon the nature of the crime(s) an applicant has committed and when it occurred. Most require at least five or six years to pass before they'd consider hiring someone guilty of a felony.

And therein lies the rub: there's nearly an 80% chance that someone released from jail or prison will be re-arrested within five years of their release. The vast majority of them will be unemployed at time of re-arrest. Contrariwise, there's very little chance of someone who has found employment being re-arrested. Employment is truly the silver bullet that short circuits this pernicious cycle of recidivism.

Recent studies have shown that those with records often emerge as an employer's best hires. Unlike others, people with records have no sense of entitlement and truly appreciate the opportunity they've been afforded. Typically, they reward employers with great loyalty, which translates to much greater retention (the true bane of HR professionals).

While attitudes are changing for the better (I, as a formerly incarcerated person, have noticed this in my own life), there still exists a great negative bias towards those with records, the NY Times notwithstanding. Racism figures mightily in this equation. But we're a country that elected a racist President, whose Atty General is eager to reinstate ineffective drug laws (including marijuana) that destroyed lives, families and communities in the 80's 90's and even today.

Anyone with a record can attest to the stigma that doesn't leave after doing one's time. In fact, for most, it's a life sentence, a sentence that even low unemployment can't expunge.

> Anyone with a record can attest to the stigma that doesn't leave after doing one's time. In fact, for most, it's a life sentence, a sentence that even low unemployment can't expunge.

This is correct. I have a criminal record (though hopefully after probation it gets deleted - deferred adjucation) and lucky enough to have a well paying tech job because my company did not do a background check. However, you never know when you may be fired, have to leave, or the company may fail. I always worry ahead of time when I might need another job and be unable to find an engineering job that doesn't background check me.

One time I accepted an offer after many interviews and worked at a place for two weeks - enough time for someone to settle down and feel like they are back to a normal life, and bang - background check, and I was out the next day.

I am also in a support group with people with the same crime as me and those who were no as fortunate to be college educated suffer from unstable and low paying employment. Those are college educated are not much better off because the jobs that they know how to do and pay decently are behind background checks.

It is very frustrating to know that you might not get a job not because of your skills, interview prep, or personality, but because of something you did years ago. I get it that not all of us are good guys or have learned our lesson, but everyone should be able to feed themselves and their families.

Here's my thoughts on your situation, based of my own expirience:

>This is correct. I have a criminal record (though hopefully after probation it gets deleted - deferred adjucation)

I can't emphasize enough how important it getting "deleted" can be for your future earning potential. You should of course expect to encounter situations where you'll need disclose and explain the situation in your future, regardless of the adjudication, as it certainly is a part of your history/ life story.

However, by not having the conviction show up on a standard background check, you can also expect to avoid those situations where: >and bang - background check, and I was out the next day.

By controlling the disclosure, you can ensure the opportunity to offer further explaination.

IME, Humans tend to be much more understanding, flexible, reasonable and compassionate toward this topic in face to face situations. Also, just the simple act of admitting and reflecting on past mistakes can help to humanize you as a candidate, and lead to developing more personal relationships than you otherwise would have.

Definitely get it expunged from your record if at all possible. Note: expungement does not automatically update a bunch of private background check databases that will also have copies of your criminal history. You may need to hire a 3rd party service to handle purging records from private databases.

Curious: why didn't you disclose to the employer up-front? I've had a few applicants do this. We don't discriminate for many minor crimes, but if I Google somebody or something comes up in a background check that's going to do more damage than if they'd just been up-front about it.

>Curious: why didn't you disclose to the employer up-front?

Because he didn't want his chances of getting hired drop in 1/10th what they were...

>but if I Google somebody or something comes up in a background check that's going to do more damage than if they'd just been up-front about it.

Well, then that's the same attitude as the one that doesn't give them the job in the first place. What business is of yours, their employee, if they did jail time in their past, as long as they are good at their job? Why should they volunteer that information to you, not only since giving it such kills their chances in lots of other employees, but in principle too?

Many companies ask for past crimes . And if someone lies he has no crimes, they get terminated once a background check is done (if it ever is). Majority of the time checks are not done and they most probably never will be. If a check is not done, and it hurts your chances if a you are honest, why be honest. So the general rule is you say there are no crimes. And only get removed when they do a background check.

> Majority of the time checks are not done

In the US, nearly every job I've had (not even sensitive jobs, just plain old programming gigs) has done a background check. They even go as far as verifying attendance dates at my University, etc.

> They even go as far as verifying attendance dates at my University, etc.

My goodness thats terrifying.

I once applied for a medical license and they wanted my high school records.... Really? it's not enough they have my college, medical school, residency, board certifications, etc. They STILL required your HS records ( and they had some GPA requirements on that too, I don't recall the specifics)

If I'm hiring, say, a developer or sysadmin who will have access to private data (financial, health, etc.) for millions of people it would be irresponsible of me not to check to see if the applicant had been convicted of any financial or data-related crime.

Being good at something does not automatically make you a trustworthy person just as having been convicted of something in the past doesn't automatically make you untrustworthy.

However, failing to disclose that you've been convicted of a crime that may be perceived as a possible red-flag or risk for a job you're interviewing for does, in my opinion demonstrate a lack of trustworthiness.

Note that I'm not saying the parent poster is untrustworthy. For all I know the crime he'd been convicted of had absolutely no relation to his job and he was young and perhaps not as wise at that point. I'm speaking only about my own views when interviewing and hiring technical people.

Those employees are typically bonded. I'm sure you know this, but you don't typically run a background check via Google when bonding employees..

> Why should they volunteer that information to you, not only since giving it such kills their chances in lots of other employees, but in principle too?

Because lying on your application about past crimes will 100% get you fired but being upfront about it leaves a different impression?

It is completely different.

If they ask you and you don't tell, it is a lie.

Imagine in a first date if you should say: I snore, every Wednesday I play soccer with my friends and arrive home somewhat drunk, and my family is full of assholes.

Imagine on a first date, your date tells you they're a convicted felon.

That may be a closer analogy. We're talking about someone's previous criminal history, not the fact that they snore.

But if they don't ask, then it should be ok to leave it out.

> Curious: why didn't you disclose to the employer up-front?

a) I didn't know as I was 22 and this was my first time getting a job after everything happened, so I was ignorant of the process. The subject never came up during interviews or offer signing.

b) NYC has laws/rules (?) that don't let employers ask about criminal records before giving an offer. To me these laws are useless as I'd rather be rejected up front than accept an offer and then have to leave...

Anyway, the company was a CRM start up and their excuse was that their investors wanted everyone in the company to be clean because we handle customer data or whatever, so I doubt I would've gotten the job even if I had been up front. But, I love where I work now so it's all good.

What kind of crime did you commit? I can understand how a company might be wary of hiring someone who murdered or sexually assaulted someone, it's a lot more tolerable to hire someone who, say, sold drugs or committed theft in a time of financial crisis.

I thought who would decide how he would pay his debt to society were the judge, not the employer.

Explain that to your insurance company. If you hired a felon and you have a customer data breech, you are going to be in some trouble.

A clean start should be the norm, but their are idiots who have screwed it up for everyone else.

This seems like a half-solution though. It's not like those who have committed violent offenses don't need to work.

I’d extend this to say they not only need to work, but they need to be re-integrated into society as a full citizen after serving their time. I find this especially true if the crime committed is in no way related to the job they’re applying to.

Yes, I agree wholeheartedly.

Would you want to work in the same building as a convicted arsonist?

Do arsonists have a special propensity to burn their own workplaces?

Is he a serial arsonist?

I would think someone who committed murder had a better chance than someone who committed any significant property theft.

I think someone convicted of financial crimes would be a much bigger concern than, say, a DWI.

Given the OP says he was 22 when getting hired the first time again, I doubt it can have been a serious crime, unless he had committed it at a very young age, which would put everything into another light, too.

People who care don’t care.

> We don't discriminate for many minor crimes

Well that depends on your definition of "minor crimes" and you have no idea what the person you are responding to has been convicted of a "minor crime"

Further most companies do, even if unstated, discriminate based on criminal history.

>if I Google somebody

You should really stop that... You should not base hiring or any other choices off a google search, you are not getting accurate data.

> or something comes up in a background check that's going to do more damage than if they'd just been up-front about it.

That depends. Losing the job is all you are empowered to do thus it seems to me it is the same amount of damage

This is why I love how in many countries in Europe criminal record is something you have to provide willingly, if they don't ask it from you then they won't get it.

Yeah, I remember for an intership in FinTech, I had to ask the gov my (empty) criminal record to provide during my application process. It was not asked right at the start, but I think before the last interview with RH.

Sweden has this too, but in recent years it is not enough. While the employers can't do background checks themselves, they are increasingly asking for the applicant to provide their criminal record. It's hard for the applicant to say no if they need/want the job.

In Norway it's illegal to ask for a criminal record except when required by law (eg: you need a statement from police to work in child care - but the request need to state that. So a violent crime would show up (up to X years in the past, automatic expiry), while fraud would not be disclosed. Conversely a child abuse conviction would not show up on a financial controller application, but fraud might (although, I'm not sure any financial sector jobs are allowed/require a criminal record check).

Some indigenous nations here (Australia) used spearing in the leg as one form of sentence for serious crimes. This is popularly used as a stick with which to beat indigenous Australians for having been 'savage' (thus implicitly deserving of the 'civilising' process comprising land theft, exterminations, rapes, etc).

Yet truly belonging to a community is among the most fundamental of human needs, social beings that we are. And here's the rub: once speared, aboriginal offenders had paid for their crime, and were still fully part of their tribe, with all the requisite privileges and obligations. There were other technical mitigations of the apparent severity of the punishment (eg. the spear head used was specifically designed for the purpose, smooth and covered with antibiotic agents to reduce damage & infection), but more crucially: the punishment was executed within a context that said: "you'll pay for your crime, and it will be a painful price, but you're still one of us".

Employment, for better or worse, is a lynchpin fetish of our current social arrangements, central to full community membership. Denying it is tantamount to community expulsion: a truly savage punishment.

It's not a punishment, though. Employers' motivation is not to exact retribution.

It's just people not wanting to associate with others who are more likely in the future to commit dangerous or destructive acts, because they fear being victimized. They rightly believe that if this person committed such an act in the past, they're more likely to do so in the future, as compared to someone with no such record.

If you pretend the motivation is to punish the other, instead of to avoid being victimized, you'll never be able to understand this behavior and thus will never be able to change it or adapt to it.

Perfectly fair point. But there are 2 levels of analyses here, which have different uses.

If you're a US felon trying to make a life, thinking of employers' motivation as being to punish you would be inaccurate and probably counter-productive. I don't quite agree with your characterisation of employers' motivation (I think corporate management is as uninformed, irrational, and prone to post-hoc rationalising of unthinking reflexive behaviour as is any other sector of society), but that's a side issue here. If you have a criminal history, and want to get back on track, you have to deal with potential employers as you find them.

If you're instead concerned about policy & intent on analysing the system as a whole, employers' reluctance to hire is absolutely part of the criminal disciplinary system, interacting with many other parts (eg. cultural attitudes towards criminality, levels of legally required disclosure of criminal history, legal classification of crimes, etc, etc). In a society (for example) without permanent public records of criminal convictions, or where they are rapidly expunged, and with no duty to disclose criminal history, ex-cons de facto receive less punishment. Whether the more or less punitive system offers the best balance of goods for society is a topic for debate, but that employer reluctance to hire acts as part of the punishment system is just a fact, regardless of employer motivation.

True, it is a de-facto outcome that constitutes a punishment.

Still totally understandable from an employer's point of view. e.g. How much of a discount would you need to hire a nanny previously convicted or domestic abuse?

But, it still functions as a de-facto punishment. But the rationality of it is what makes it difficult to address, without taking away the freedom of free people.

Perhaps a solution would be to make judges explicitly state that part of the punishment is to have a really hard time finding work, to make them acknowledge what's being done. Then, if the judge doesn't wish to make this part of the punishment, he can order that the criminal's future employers be subsidized, or that the record be hidden.

The thing is, these are political non-starters. Even if the overall result is better, we know what'd happen the first time a felon with a hidden record or whose paycheck is government subsidized does something awful on the job. And that will happen, fast.

Former criminals are far more likely to commit crimes than random citizens. So it's rational to discriminate against people with records. This fact has to get acknowledged, and my sense is that a lot of people don't want to because it makes the problem seem really hard to solve.

Overall, given that employers should have the right to choose their employees with knowledge intact (see: nanny example), but criminals shouldn't be receiving life-long extrajudicial punishments, I think subsidizing their wages to some degree, if they find work, seems like a good policy option. I wonder if it's ever been tried.

> Former criminals are far more likely to commit crimes than random citizens. So it's rational to discriminate against people with records. This fact has to get acknowledged, and my sense is that a lot of people don't want to because it makes the problem seem really hard to solve.

What I'd like to see is how that number changes if you only look at those in stable employment.

One reason I'm wondering about that is that the re-offending rate in the US is really horrific compared to places like Norway for example. But it's not clear if that is because of the particularly brutal US prisons, or because of ability to run background checks (there are strict legal limitations on who can request background checks and for what roles, and what can be revealed, in Norway), or something else.

Yeah, there are a lot of confounding differences between Americans and Norwegians here.

History, terrain/density, climate, culture, and even genetics all likely play a role. Not just policy.

I would be curious to learn how the numbers compare between Norwegians and Norwegian-Americans. That'd cut a few confounders at least.

(Firstly: Hi @crispinb, I lived in Mullumbimby for a few months, Northern Rivers truly is a beautiful place).

In Australia, for a first offence of a not-particularly serious nature, it is possible to ask for "no conviction", at the magistrates discretion, even when found guilty, especially if a conviction would effect your chances of future employment or study options. This doesn't apply to sexual offences, and typically wouldn't apply to anything that goes further than the magistrates courts.

[ Yes, @TheSpiceIsLife, the Northern Rivers is marvellous, and Mullumbimby's a sweet little town (I'm in the bush over the Nightcap near Nimbin). We're in that part of the year though when many of us wish for some of your cooler Tassie days ;) ]

> They rightly believe that if this person committed such an act in the past, they're more likely to do so in the future, as compared to someone with no such record.

The rightly in your comment irks me. Isn't it a self-fulfilling prophecy? One's potential criminal behavior tends to depend, at least partly, on environment, and socio-economic factors. It makes sense that anyone facing difficulties in finding jobs, for things they supposedly have paid for, are indeed more likely to recidivate. It's a vicious circle.

If I remember correctly, while the U.S. makes up only 5% of the world's population, we incarcerate 25% of the worlds prison population. I am thankful for work like yours that is helping to rehabilitate people in the most danger.

More people are getting arrested and going to jail for more trivial things than ever before. Last time I did jury duty it was not a stabbing or drug addict it was a woman who's home had an overhang on the roof that was 3 inches past the legal limit based on the zoning code. She was facing up to 5 years in state prison over something that 20 years ago would have gotten her maybe a $1000 fine.

If that’s not a case for jury nullification I don’t know what is


There's prison time for building code violations?

I think there may be a case of plea bargaining behind that, assuming it's true. Many prosecutors like to offer suspects the option of pleading to a minor crime with minor punishment versus going to trial for a more serious crime.

In the ideal case, if the suspect is actually guilty, they save the prosecutors office time and money in actually preparing the case for trial, and the defendant gets a lesser punishment and doesn't spend their money on a trial defense either.

In the less ideal case, say if the suspect is actually innocent but is not believed or can't prove it easily, the suspects are put in a tough position - plead guilty to something they didn't do, or a long and expensive trial with uncertain outcome. It gets particularly dubious when the prosecutors try to tilt the scales towards the plea side by threatening to go for the max punishment on the most serious crime they could possibly charge if the suspect chooses a trial. It sounds like this could be a case where this threat was carried out and the prosecutor is going for a knowingly over the top punishment to punish them for daring to not take a guilty plea.

Usually there's some blanked law about how a certain class of crimes or beyond a certain fine amount prison time is an option.

Progressive states and cities like to have lots a laws about little things like building code vehicle inspections, how you're allowed to store trash, etc, etc that make it a NicePlaceToLive(TM). They attach $50-$500 fines to violations of these small laws. Obviously there's additional compounding fines for nonpayment.

Something like an unpaid parking ticket that got sent to your old address can easily turn into jail time if when you're arrested out of the blue (for having a few grand in unpaid fines) and can't write a check or hire a lawyer to solve the problem then and there.

Basically laws are passed with good intentions and the negative externalities and edge cases do not affect the ruling class so they never get changed.

So yes, violate building code on your own property and don't address the situation the first time they bother you about it and you could very well wind up in prison.

I assume there are everywhere in the western world. Don't think they are enforced though.

it was a woman who's home had an overhang on the roof that was 3 inches past the legal limit based on the zoning code. She was facing up to 5 years in state prison over something that 20 years ago would have gotten her maybe a $1000 fine.

Going to call BS on that one. Zoning code violations are not felonies in any state in the U.S. The punishment for a zoning code violation is a fine or a court order to remove/rebuild the offending structure.

Thank you. Your facts are correct. As a patriotic American, I'm ashamed with some of our country's medieval criminal justice practices, including our distinction of being the only country in the world (which includes China, Iran, North Korea, etc) that keeps juveniles in solitary confinement.

It's the protestant puritan spirit.

People can go towards atheism these days (and strangely few do for such a modern western country), but a cultural bias (that those people that ended in jail are somehow inherently bad and must be punished in life) is less easy to shake off -- even when the original cultural leaders of the country (WASPs) have been superseded by a much more diverse population.

(Part of the Politically Correct movement have that protestant dynamic in play too, as does the obsession with "evil", and this or that thing or person being it).

> It's the protestant puritan spirit.

America was settled by a lot more than just puritans. There were also notably cavaliers, quakers, and borderers. That and a bunch of other groups that came later.

They definitely had an influence but you're going to need to make a better, less lazy argument than this. It's like invoking the Prussians to explain something about Europe you don't like.

>America was settled by a lot more than just puritans.

Yes, but they won the cultural influence, not quakers.

>They definitely had an influence but you're going to need to make a better, less lazy argument than this.

General arguments don't go into the nuances, but that doesn't mean they're not good as models. In so much as someone believes in the role of ideas, ideology and religion in history and the development of a society, some connections are quite inevitable to make.

>It's like invoking the Prussians to explain something about Europe you don't like.

Lots of things about Europe one like's or doesn't like can be explained by historical circumstance, including things that happened way before the Prussian state. Tons of France's secular stance, for example, customs and institutions hark back from the era of the French Revolution.

> Tons of France's secular stance, for example, customs and institutions hark back from the era of the French Revolution

That's wrong. Secular stances in France are mostly coming from the time of the third Republic, beginning at the end of the XIX th century, culminating with the Church-State separation in 1905.

But since the third republic was established after the Prussian victory over Napoleon III, you can invoke the Prussians as being responsible for the secular stance in France. /s

Yes, but the puritans got rich from the opium, tea and spice trade, so thry wrote the history.

> It's the protestant puritan spirit.

Have you watched the documentary "13th"? If so I'd be curious to hear what explains the delta in your opinion.

If not, I can recommend it.

[Edit to clarify] For the sake of folk who haven't watched it, my rough TL;DR would be that it paints an apparently clear continuum from slavery to mass incarceration based on the 13th amendment's allowance of "involuntary servitude" for convicts.

> It's the protestant puritan spirit.

It could be that, or a 1000 other things. Not one debate about historical causality has ever been settled in web comments.

However, in a society primarily organised around inculcating greed (brought about by another set of complex historical causes), I'd propose highly-profitable privatised incarceration as an a priori plausible candidate for a causal factor.

> It's the protestant puritan spirit.

I see no proof of this claim.

Some would call me a Protestant Christian. Jesus teaches rehabilitation, mercy, and love even for enemies. Prisons are not "scriptural" or even mentioned under Protestant and Catholic teaching.

Israel had dozens of "Cities of Refuge" in the Old Testament where people who had accentually done something wrong (like killed) someone could run and be protected by the city leaders.

God never commanded prisons or even jails anywhere in the Torah or New Testament.

>I see no proof of this claim.

Societal claims are not math to draw complete proofs, and human culture is not molecules and physical particles to do experiments on. Nor are such things absolute like laws of nature. Still, one can trace historical developments, watch the timeline and lineage of ideas, track influences and draw some conclusions. And this is a fairly common conclusion of people who have studied such things, not to mention, certain traits are common across certain cultures (protestant cultures vs catholic cultures or muslim cultures, or buddhist cultures, and so on).

>Some would call me a Protestant Christian. Jesus teaches rehabilitation, mercy, and love even for enemies.

What Christ taught originally is not really relevant here though, how people in this or that era or this or that culture interpreted those teachings matters.

Marx also calls for peace, equality, rule of the common workers and such, but in the real play of events it didn't went down like this. History is full of similar changes of ideas in action. References to Jesus and the Gospels aside, WASP protestants have always been (in the majority -- there are of course exceptions) more Old Testament in their ways than New Testament.

I agree with your points. However, I was addressing your statement about the "protestant puritan spirit" which comes across as "Protestant Puritan [Christians] are at fault". This is reaffirmed by the followup statement "certain traits are common across certain cultures (protestant cultures..."

So if the culture was actually protestant christian, then they would follow the teaching in the bible that defines them. The fact they didn't leaves me to believe that the culture isn't actually protestant, so labeling it as such is incorrect.

The number of prisoners (per-population) has grown in the US as the number of protestant christians as declined.

You may be a Protestant, but you're not a Calvinist. For Calvinists there are only the elect (who always were in the grace of God and guaranteed a place in heaven) and the reprobate (who never were in the grace of God, and so are damned to hell). It's the Calvinist view of humanity that prevails in the USA.

Which Protestant sects don't share this view? From my casual understanding the same philosophy underlies the Lutheran school as well - this viewpoint came from Luther's reading of St Augustine and fed into all the major protestant theological traditions.

Just a clarification, there were not dozens of cities of refuge, only six on each side of the river (well, more after the return of the messiah), and they only applied to people who had been found guilty of accidental homicide (what we’d call manslaughter) and not murder. That ruling had to come from a Jewish “court” and the killer had to be outside of the extended family unit. The killers were not protected by city leaders, but by tradition and scripture, until the death of the high priest, after which they were free to leave unmolested.

Of course travel in those days, especially fleeing for your life, was hardly easy. Complicating matters for the killer, was the Go’El Haddam, “The Redeemer of Blood” who’s duty it was to kill you unless you were in a city of refuge.

Mind you, indefinite banishment would have been a slow death sentence for the average Sumerian or Cannanite Joe. Being cut off from friends, family, community and the ability to travel beyond the city is rough, but as you say, not jail. Remember though, that all of this is discussion of a form of religiously mandated execution.

Curse your parents? Dead.

Break the sabbath? Dead.

Plant the wrong crops? Dead.

Prisons came about because socieites started to offer something other than the need to flee, or die. Initially prisons were just pee-trial holding areas, but as more people lived together, that changed. As the expectation of s fair trial spread, jails which could safely hold people for more than the few days between their apprehension and execution became necessary.

Anyone who by violence causes a death must be put to death. If, however, he has not planned to do it but it comes from God by his hand, he can take refuge in a place which I shall appoint for you. But should any person dare to kill another with deliberate planning, you will take that person even from my altar to be put to death.. Exodus 21:12-13



Thank you for clarifying the details. I suppose my original mention of cities of refuge was actually superfluous to the discussion anyway.

What I really appreciate more than anything else about this site, is that all kinds of interesting things come up. Cities of refuge coming up in a discussion about contemporary society and jurisprudence strikes me as valuable, and I appreciate you raising the subject. Thanks for taking the time to read my ramble.

That’s certainly part of it, but there’s also the political dimension. You don’t lose an election by being tough on crime/criminals, but on the flip side... Dukakis. Plus, there is just so much money and power and jobs tied up in law enforcement and corrections.

Then as you say, there is the religious/cultural dimension.

Edit: I’m just describing the realpolitik, not endorsing it.

Modern solitary confinement is a descendant of the Pennsylvania System, a Quaker penal management system by which prisoners were kept in solitary in order to both prevent influence from other prisoners and to speed up the prisoner's spiritual rehabilitation, through prayer and meditation. It's about 200 years old, and has gone in and out of favor, but current solitary practices are, if not religious, aimed at the same barbaric form of rehabilitation.

Well, the US wasn't always like that. But if I look at the prison population statistics, someone seemed to have figured out how to make big bucks off the prison system sometime in the early 80s...

That misses a few critical steps, most importantly, what percent of our indictments, controlling for prior record, result in convictions?

>Employment is truly the silver bullet that short circuits this pernicious cycle of recidivism.

Is this shown with a pseudo randomized trial or just correlation? Because I could easily see lots of attributes that make someone more hirable would also be associated with reduced recidivism rates (college degree, strong support structure, low impulsivity, high conscientiousness)

Have you ever heard of Homeboy Industries? Their motto is actually "nothing stops a bullet like a job." It was started by Father Greg Boyle, a Jesuit priest out in LA, and basically he opened these bakeries (and some other businesses) specifically to give former gang members jobs in addition to offering free tattoo removal and a lot of other counseling/therapy services. The idea is that people fall into the cycle of gang violence when they have no hope and no prospects, so by offering them gainful employment in spite of their pasts and the additional support to address their psychological traumas, HBI helps them to break the cycle and pave the way for them to become functional, contributing members of society. They do amazing work and I would love to see this model replicated across the country.

I'm an atheist but Father Greg is one of my greatest heroes. I highly recommend his recent interview on Fresh Air.

I've worked with Home Boy, and you're right, it's a wonderful organization staffed by great people. Unfortunately, for it along with many other great non-profits, they spend so much of their time fund raising (development) and exist year to year, on donations and grants. No npo has scaled nationally. After working in the non-profit space myself, I grew convinced that a for-profit approach could address the breadth of the problem of recidivism. That' when I launched 70MillionJobs.

100% agreement to NPO challenges of work vs. fundraising.

My wife is on the board of a refugee-supporting NPO. The present climate has funded them well, but the winds could change. Personally, I hope they could spawn a B-corp type entity during this season of plenty to develop sustainable funding.

In a similar fashion, the Clarkston, GA refugee community has had comparative success because there is a network of ready, undesirable jobs processing chickens. There is also an established network of shuttle companies for transportation. While the cliche of the refugee doctor or engineer working in a chicken plant is very real, stable work is huge for getting these families started in the US.

P.S. I have a brother in law now working past a decade of addiction and related tomfoolery. I'll definitely send your company to him.

That's fantastic. I believe Men's Warehouse's founder (who has been ousted) also advocated for something similar. I wonder how well those "second chance" hires end up working out compared to typical hires. I have to imagine those that have reformed themselves appreciate the opportunity and may end up being more loyal employees longterm, but I also have to assume there are some who don't turn it around.

If it's a silver bullet, the randomized experiments must not have included any werewolves among the subjects: see discussion in "Preventing future offending of delinquents and offenders: what have we learned from experiments and meta-analyses?", MacKenzie & Farrington 2015 https://www.gwern.net/docs/sociology/2015-mackenzie.pdf (Note that it is an old debate in criminal justice based on the randomized experiments' dismal results: "does anything work?" The iron laws of evaluation apply as much there as in the rest of sociology...)

Is there any way to use subcontracting to attack this? Traditionally, subcontracting is used in an abusive way to deny workers proper benefits, pay, and stability. But what if the subcontracting firm operated with essentially no profit motive, hired previous offenders, hacking around internal HR groups at large firms? They’re then not hiring someone with a record; they contacting to a firm who has their own hiring standards (which you’re using to your advantage).

Offtopic: thanks for attacking this problem. There are few people willing to attack important problems like this.

This is a model some staffing agencies employ, whereby they are the employer of record, serving a larger corporate client. In theory, it makes sense, however it fails to address the real needs of job-seekers with records: they need a full-time, stable job. Flexibility does not serve their interests. And those newly out of prison are generally required to have a full-time job as a condition of their release. As any general contractor can attest, it's nearly impossible to maintain full-time employment for their crew. And "crews" are rarely the scalable solution to a problem faced by many millions.

It’s not impossible to maintain full time employment for your staff as contractor. You’ll just have to calculate your rate in a fashion that includes the time between jobs. So it’s cheaper not to keep the staff on a paid contract in that time, doing otherwise reduces the companies earnings since you can’t increase your rate beyond what the competitors demand.

> And those newly out of prison are generally required to have a full-time job as a condition of their release

That’s insane, plenty of people who didn’t just get out of prison can’t get a full time job.

Yes, I know from personal experience.

Thanks for taking the time to reply.

Thanks for caring.

I've seen the potential for hacking around HR requirements just with my own consulting, even though I don't need it. I have a company, but I'm the only fixed employee. If I need more, I bring in freelancers. But having a company suddenly made requests for my resume or references a rare occurrence.

Have you considered using the tools the net afford to help remedy this? I'm going on the assumption here that the country that you have a criminal record in is the one where it is easiest to dig that up and hold it against you. But as long as crimes committed have some real world factor there should be absolutely no reason to hire someone with such a record to do remote work. Which might just give you an edge.

I love your initiative by the way, if there is any way that I can help promote it please let me know.

The Criminal Database used by the FBI and federal agencies is shared with Canada as well (probably with European organizations if they bother to ask). Which is why its sometimes important to see if the crimes you're accused of might have a more strict interpretation in other countries.

e.g. DWI in Canada is considered much more serious than in the US. One of my friends pleaded no contest to another misdemeanor charge to escape the scrutiny that would come with having to deal with DWI on record by arguing that he would have difficulty in traveling to Canada.

thanks very much

> large, national employers. Nearly all of them have internal criteria relating to who they will or will not hire

I always found it difficult to get hired by such firms without prior experience. And that experience only comes from small local employers. Work small and locally and then get hired by the bigger firms to have a better chance at employment.

Bug firms are just "too efficient" and don't really have time/resource to give chances. And take risks. Among the plethora of ridiculousness they use in hiring and firing, I cannot consciously give 2 cents about what they think.

So I'd rather skip them and jump to the more "personal" employers. Let them come and beg for me if they need to.

I would think not getting arrested for breaking the law is the best thing one can do. I have never been arrested. I don't know anyone in my family or group of friends who have ever been arrested.

I do notice that, among younger people, getting arrested for something is almost a matter of course. A fact of life. That is the real problem in my opinion.

Recent studies have shown that those with records often emerge as an employer's best hires. Unlike others, people with records have no sense of entitlement and truly appreciate the opportunity they've been afforded. Typically, they reward employers with great loyalty, which translates to much greater retention (the true bane of HR professionals).

Citations, please? That is a highly counterintuitive result.

Citations would indeed be great. But why is it a counterintuitive result? If someone with a record faces a much harder time getting hired, then doesn't it make sense if they take extra care to hold on to a job once they have found someone willing to take a risk?

Because the criminal mind, as I had learned in psych., has a very inflated sense of entitlement and views opportunities as how to take advantage of others. Now you might rightly reply, "America has a mass over-incarceration problem. Not everyone in prison has those psychopathic tendencies". Even if we grant that for the sake of argument, and assumed that people in the general population of never-incarcerated fail to fully appreciate their freedom and lack of a record, I would still expect the significant number of ex-felons in the former group to bring down that population's aggregate measure in "employer's best hires" well below that of the general population. I'd also ask about the traumatic effects being in a prison itself might have on the psychological well-being so-called targets of an unjust incarceration system who don't belong there.

Again, I'm sure there's a profile of the reformed convict who's learned to value every breath of life of freedom with appreciation and gratitude. I'm just not convinced this is the norm to the extent that they'd typically outstrip employees who did not go through the system.

That's why it's counterintuitive to me. Now I'm ready to say I've been all wrong about this. But I want to see data.

Unlike many people in the job market, those with records generally have no sense of entitlement. They are used to taking orders and fearful of screwing up. For certain jobs, these are great attributes. See:


Does 70MillionJobs currently have a need for developers?

Not currently, thanks.

> But we're a country that elected a racist President...

Lyndon B. Johnson?

LBJ was a odd duck. I suggest that you read one of Robert Caro’s Biographies of him.

He was many things, but I don’t think racist was one of them. He was mentored politically by southern racists, but betrayed them epically, indirectly creating the modern GOP in the process.

He was important to getting civil rights legislation passed in 1964. He also taught poor Mexican kids when he was younger. He was a lot of things, but racist isn't fair.

> Ahu Yildirmaz, an economist who helps lead the research arm of the payroll-processing company ADP, said her firm’s data showed more people switching jobs, and getting bigger bumps in pay for doing so.

So... if I work for a company who uses ADP for payroll, ADP is tracking if/when I change jobs and how much my salary is over time?

I wonder what else they're doing with my private information.

The ADP employment report is eagerly watched by economists and traders and goes back decades.


My wife's company unknowingly hired someone with a criminal record(he used his brother identity to get the job). He attempted to rape another employee and killed the person who stopped him. The company paid rather large settlement to the victims of these crimes. Incidents like this reinforce the notion that it isn't worth the risk to hire people with a criminal record.

There's a difference between someone guilty of murder and other physical violence such as aggravated rape and other felonies like larceny, burgling, fraud, etc., where there is a good chance at rehabilitation, esp., if the crime was fueled by drug addiction.

I worked with someone who had 16 assault charges. To be totally honest I'd prefer working with someone convicted of murder than that guy.

The thing with 16 charges of anything is that you know there's going to be a 17th, an 18th... and so on.

Some people can be rehabilitated, some people can't. Severity of the crime isn't necessarily indicative of that.

You'd likely be right to do so. Murder actually has an extremely low repeat rate. Murderers does have a higher chance of committing another crime on release than people not convicted of a crime, presumably in part because of higher chance of unemployment and poverty, but most murderers are extremely unlikely to ever kill again as most murders are crimes of passion in extreme circumstances that are extremely unlikely to occur again.

On the other hand, drug addicts will do pretty much anything for a fix.

That's true. However, I was more or less implying ex-addicts who had been clean, had completed their sentences and were honestly looking to get on with a life, at one time interrupted by bad choices.

I feel for these victims but... yeah, never hire someone that was convicted of anything and make sure that they remain criminals... that makes lot of sense. /s

...say most well intentioned people until it's their business on the line and they're looking at hiring a felon vs. someone without a record.

FWIW, when I was at Google I had at least two colleagues with felony records. It made me even more proud to work there as it showed the company was willing to look beyond mistakes made in someone's past.

There's a YC app for that:


I'm really confused - when did we suddenly start having a labor shortage?

Unemployment numbers, as with most official government numbers, are based on a combination of surveys and self-performed actions, such as filing for unemployment, the latter of which essentially amounts to self-reporting [1]. These results are then aggregated into six metrics, U-1 through U-6 [2], of which U-3 has been designated the official and widely-quoted unemployment rate.

The main value of U-3 isn't that it's a particularly insightful reflection on job health, but rather that it's easy to measure, its definition is consistent, and captures a particular subset of the population that has demonstrated overt desire to participate in government programs that ostensibly help them on the path towards employment. This self-selects for workers exceeding a particular desperation ratio, while not counting people who may think that they'd prefer to work, but haven't taken a government-defined sequence of steps towards doing so.

Seasonally-adjusted U-3 is low right now, around 4.1%, so in macro terms the pool of people who have taken overt steps towards getting a job while still not having a job is shrinking. This means there's fewer candidates for a particular position, and on average, less of a chance that any particular candidate is qualified for any particular position. You could argue that this means there's a labor shortage.

[1] https://www.bls.gov/cps/cps_htgm.htm [2] https://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.t15.htm

For low skilled jobs, the immigration crack down might have had some effect. It's certainly had a big effect in construction. The legit bigger employers might have always been hiring people with their paperwork all in order, but the smaller contractors are now competing with them for the same pool of legit workers. The ex-cons are the ones who can fill the gaps for people looking to get cheaper labor.

I knew a guy a few years ago, when things were more lax, who lived in Bisbee, Atizona and he said that since it was right next to the border and their was a big border patrol station there that there weren't ay illegal immigrants around, so if he wanted cheap construction help he had to hire ex-cons.

The irony; you can't find any illegal immigrants to hire -- which is against the law! -- so you have to resort to hiring people who have already broken the law.

Broke the law, got caught, served their sentence, and are now looking to re-join society.

As opposed to those who broke the law and haven't been caught yet. (Different laws, granted.)

Economists consider unemployment around 5% as "full employment".


Hitting that is one way of measuring whether there is a labor shortage. At the moment it does happen to coincide with wage growth (which should be higher when it is more difficult to hire people).

But economists define shortage as a situation where an external mechanism (like government intervention) prevents price from rising. The fact that we are seeing wage growth says that there is not a shortage.

Note that the article doesn't contain the word "shortage". It's just the continuum of supply and demand: if people like the ones you hired last year can't be found this year, you have to pay more, or consider those you'd have overlooked, including felons. If they have a stronger bargaining position, they get a better deal.

Note that the article also doesn't contain the word "immigration". It deserves to be noted that the jobs being discussed here have a huge overlap with the jobs often filled by unskilled immigrants. Whatever your views on ex-cons and low-skill foreigners, I think it's important to understand that there is a trade-off between them.

We do a shitty job at educating people, so it’s hard to hire qualified people in many industries.

Try finding a master plumber or electrician. Or a mid level IT person. They don’t exist.

Companies run so lean there’s no pipeline of internal candidates either. Where I work, it’s impossible to hire competent managers with technical skills. The normal places you’d look are full of young/inexperienced and old/stagnant.

I am working at a place now with plenty of old and good managers who started with coding. If you call someone who stayed at a company more than 5 years "stagnant", you will never find a good manager.

Anyway. They've got good pay and good power in their positions. They rarely change jobs, you won't see them much in the job market.

I can't speak to plumbing and electrical work, those aren't my industries but

Or a mid level IT person. They don’t exist.

My knee jerk reaction is to say "I absolutely refuse to believe this is true", but I will concede that the problem (here, I am defining problem not as a shortage of qualified talent, but a shortage of qualified talent that actually progresses to getting hired) exists because of symptoms you correctly highlighted "pipelines" and "competent managers". I will admit-however-to being biased as someone who's worked in IT for decades and later became a technical recruiter with an agency who wanted someone on staff that could have conversations with tech professionals on a meaningful, personal level.

Unrealistic or otherwise unsustainable hiring manager expectations and offensive constraints on salary compared with demanded skills seem to have created artificial scarcities of talent in IT hiring (pipeline). Candidates are expected to come in the door having every bullet point in a 120 bullet point job ad satisfied as to core-competencies, and when hired, they're given a workstation and sent off to the grind with just enough training and grooming to know the name of the product and the ability to rattle off a list of libraries and frameworks used. Skill gaps get resumes thrown out, even if it's some middling gap that with time and support from senior techs can be rapidly closed with a dose of on the job training. Something that seems as extinct as the pterodactyl nowadays.

Heck, just last week I had a talk with a recruiter who was looking for a DevOps Engineer (not strictly IT in the traditional sense of the phrase, but I bring this up to highlight my point) and we joked about one job spec that was looking for a senior level expert with five years experience in Kubernetes (competent managers). Let that one soak in. The hiring manager demanded a five year expert in Kubernetes, which hasn't been around for a full three.

My recruiter friend told me they dropped this client after a few more job specs like this because they couldn't get a single candidate past a pre-screening due to hiring manager expecting the world-and they were preparing to do the same to a few other clients for the same reason. I asked if she were worried about what this would do to their billings "No, because we have other clients who pay us more, but have much more manageable expectations on job candidates."

I wish this were the exception versus the norm but if I have to hear one more time that there aren't qualified IT people I will probably rip what's left of my greying hair right out of my head because if this is true, it's not the fault of IT personnel, it's the fault of everyone involved in the hiring process refusing to manage their own darn expectations.

"offensive constraints on salary"

This is the entirety of it right here. There's only a shortage when your pay is below market.

This relates to my experience from within a company. When recruiters don't want to work with you anymore, there is something wrong going on with you.

There was also the issue with salary. You won't find any senior DevOps with a clue because anyone who can ssh to a server moved to contracting and is paid double what your perm job is offering.

True. Optimistically, the current "shortage" might result in getting chronically unemployed people back into the job market. People who long ago gave up on finding a job.

That said, we should introduce some job training for these folks since their skulls are likely severely out of date.

There's a labor shortage of people who are going to do the tedious work. The good factory job in part requires a dependable worker. In many places, that dependable worker is hard to find and factories are switching to robots (e.g. https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/rise-of-the-machines... )

> The robots were coming in not to replace humans, and not just as a way to modernize, but also because reliable humans had become so hard to find. It was part of a labor shortage spreading across America, one that economists said is stemming from so many things at once. A low unemployment rate. The retirement of baby boomers. A younger generation that doesn’t want factory jobs. And, more and more, a workforce in declining health: because of alcohol, because of despair and depression, because of a spike in the use of opioids and other drugs.

> ...

> Companies now could pick between two versions of the American worker — humans and robots. And at Tenere Inc., where 132 jobs were unfilled on the week the robots arrived, the balance was beginning to shift.

> ...

> After an hour the workers were heading back to their cars, one saying that everything “sounds okay,” another saying the “pay sucks.” Bader guessed that two of the four “wouldn’t last a week,” because often, he said, he knew within minutes who would last. People who said they couldn’t work Saturdays. People who couldn’t work early mornings. This was the mystery for him: So many people showing up, saying they were worried about rent or bills or supporting children, and yet they couldn’t hold down a job that could help them.

This extends to farms (who often prefer immigrants because they're ok with working with large animals). For a bit on the labor storage in Wisconsin: http://host.madison.com/wsj/business/wisconsin-businesses-gr...

On the other hand, you've got an ex-convict. Many of them are people who have messed up somewhere in the past and don't want to go back.

I am in Wisconsin (and work in the public sector), so this is something I'm a bit more familiar with than other states... and also happens to be the subject of the article... http://buybsi.com/images/PDF/MapofIndustries.pdf - note that three of the facilities are teaching farm skills.

Tying the two articles together - the work release are people that you're sure are going to show up and are going to be drug free. They're not going to stop at the bar on the way home and come into work the next day with a massive hangover.

And when they get out... they are often good workers. https://www.npr.org/2016/04/22/475228335/do-felons-make-good... ... and there's something for the employer too - a tax credit. https://dwd.wisconsin.gov/jobservice/taxcredit/wotc.htm

Have you not seen US unemployment data?

There's been a labor shortage in the big cities for about a year, though IME that shortage hasn't extended to smaller cities or more rural areas of the country.

So its another symptom of rising real-estate prices then?

No, it's a symptom of capital concentration. Big cities are growing economically because that's where the money is, thus that's where the startup and VC money goes. The rest of the country isn't seen by investors as the best place for growth, so remains relatively underdeveloped.

I think unless the crime is directly linked to the job, for instance bank robbery and working in a bank, they should not be allowed to ask you about your criminal history.

I would not be comfortable working with people who have committed violent felonies.

> I would not be comfortable working with people who have committed violent felonies.

I think that's still a very broad category. There's situations that could lead to violent acts but wouldn't mean that person was a risk in the workplace. We all know people who've been in fights and sheer bad luck can turn a brawl into homocide. (a "lucky" punch, an "unlucky" fall leading to a head injury).

Personally I've never been in a fight other than the playground shoving kind - and violence seriously freaks me out. But I know that people I know and trust could have easily crossed that line if chance had have played them a different hand.

work needs to be done to allow those with records into jobs that require occupational licenses. these can be local, state, or even federal restrictions. a felon could serve to fight wild fires and find in many jurisdictions they cannot become a fire fighter or hold any public job.

Just check it out below! https://niccc.csgjusticecenter.org/map/

Glancing at the restrictions on firefighter, it appears that they fall under the same set of regulations as police.

One finds things like:

> Ineligible for employment with municipal fire department (mandatory for felonies/crimes involving moral turpitude)

> Any felony; Crime of moral turpitude; Crimes involving fraud, dishonesty, misrepresentation or money-laundering


> Ineligible for employment in the police or fire department (second/third/fourth class cities)

> Any felony; Any misdemeanor

Is that a reasonable restriction?

I am of the understanding that these restrictions are in place so that others can't can't compromise the integrity of one working in that office. Having gambling debts is something that allows people to blackmail or otherwise influence a person.

Looking through that, are there any that are particularly "why is this even there?" that you can point out that fall in the mandatory/automatic for consequence type?

Also labor pool is shrinking because more people are put in prison over nothing (while white rich people continue to get away with almost anything).

The phrasing on the latter half seems likely to cause a big mess of an argument, despite its statistical accuracy. Is there a better way to put it?

I would hope that this forum understands the importance of not censoring truths that are politically incorrect....

I may be misunderstanding you, but politically attacking rich people and white people are some of the most popular things going right now, especially among the demographic common around HN. It's almost the opposite of politically incorrect.

Not saying all complaints are unfounded, but it's far from politically incorrect in many groups.

I don't think "politically incorrect" is necessarily correlated with "unpopular" - see, for instance, the number of news articles about how countless people are thrilled with Trump for saying out loud the "politically incorrect" things that they were just thinking.

Fair point. Still, political correctness is very much about avoiding offense or further disadvantage toward marginalized groups. It still doesn't fit to claim it's politically incorrect to go after rich white people. It's a pedantic point though, I admit.

I agree that that's how the phrase is used in practice (and yeah, language is descriptive), but I don't think the idea itself has any fundamental reason why it's about offense towards the marginalized and not offense towards the powerful--especially given that the powerful, somewhat by definition, tend to control politics and standards of decorum.

No topic is really out of bounds, but some require an extra order of thinking that isn't reflected in the simple and inflammatory language people tend to use to discuss them. Being politically incorrect is just another way of being and thinking lazy and wasting other people's time.

I learned recently that the number of people in state and federal prisons has actually been declining for a few years.



They threw me in jail for defending a child against his axe wielding dad!

What did they charge you with?

Trespassing; we're fighting it in court but you still go to jail while they deliberate and they torture you in it via numerous means

Convicted felon here....it's still a massive hurdle.

No shit, Sherlock.

I have an engineering friend who went to prison twice a couple of years ago and he's making 200k now.

Everyone knows people like that. The problem is the amount of ex-felons who can't even land a median salary job. Not everyone, even in the non-con pool, can pull off a 6 figure tech wiz job.

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