Why Don’t Companies Hire Felons?

There are approximately 12 million people in the U.S. with a felony conviction.

Each year 650,000 inmates are released from prison.  A study showed that fewer than 45% were employed after eight months.

Estimates indicate that the unemployment rate among offenders is 25-40%.

These figures show the challenge felons face moving forward.

There are employers willing to hire felons, but not all will.

This blog post will examine the issue of why companies don’t hire felons.

  • Conducting a Background Check
  • Reasons Companies Don’t Hire Felons
  • Reasons Companies Should Hire felons
  • Need for Honesty
  • Supporting a Felon in Getting Hired

Conducting a Background Check

Most employers routinely conduct a background check as part of their application.

The purpose of a background check is to ensure employers hire the best candidate for a job.

There are employers who will hire felons, but it will still take persistence in completing a number of applications in order to find that job.

A criminal background check typically reveals the following information:

  • Convictions of felonies, misdemeanors, and sex crimes
  • Current home address and phone number as well as those within the past ten years
  • Arrests and court records (Dockets, orders, decrees, judgments)
  • Warrants
  • Incarceration records
  • Federal and state tax liens
  • Federal and civil judgments
  • Federal and state bankruptcies
  • Age and date of birth
  • Any alias’ and maiden names
  • Marriages and divorces

The exception here is when felons have had their records expunged or sealed at the time of the background check.  These records would not appear on a background check.

Reasons Companies Don’t Hire Felons

Many employers won’t hire felons, believing they are dishonest and likely to commit a crime on the job.  Or employers fear the public finding out they hire felons, damaging the company’s reputation and losing business.

Another reason is to protect their company.  If they hire a felon who causes problems on the job, it could be viewed as negligent hiring.  This might allow safety factors at work to place the business at risk and jeopardize their standing with the public.

Another issue is the stereotype: once a felon always a felon.  These employers believe that a felon can’t change and will always resort back to crime at some point.

Some believe that no matter what, felons lie and are untrustworthy, and nothing will change that.

Others state that all felons are dangerous whether theirs was a violent felony or not.  The news is filled with examples of violence involving felons.

There is potential for crime in the workplace.  Hiring felons does increase the potential risk of crime at work because not all felons are motivated to living an honest life and maintaining a job.

As many as 75% of hiring managers state that a non-violent felony would weigh heavily in their hiring decision.  For a violent felony, 100% said that would significantly affect their decision to hire.

Another reason often given by employers is how other employees might react to working with a felon.  The question is whether they have the right to know if there is a felon employed there vs. the felon’s right to let their conviction stay in the past.

Another reason is that felons’ skills may not have the same skills as those who haven’t spent a lengthy time in prison.  This could mean special training for them that takes time and can be expensive.

Reasons Companies Should Hire Felons

In spite of these or other reasons, felons must be persistent in looking for that job.  There are many compelling reasons for companies to hire felons.

What makes felons good workers?  They have been gone for a number of years since it was a felony conviction with a lengthy prison sentence.

This has given them the chance to reflect on the years they have spent incarcerated and how much of their lives they have wasted because of their crime.

For many, they are grateful to those willing to give them a chance.   They are motivated to succeed.

Years of incarceration has made them punctual due to the rigid schedule to which they have had to adhere.  They are accustomed to hard work.

Now they have the opportunity to show others that they can adapt to working in society again and can get the education they need and learn new skills.

Also, many are on probation and have to be accountable to their Probation Officer for finding and holding a job.

A key to remember is that those who are hired are the ones who have faced and dealt with the frustration of seeking employment.  The free guide to becoming employed outlines the steps to success.

They have understood it would be a struggle and maintained a positive attitude.  They have convinced themselves they are employable once again.

They came to the job interview appropriately dressed and groomed.  They were on time, polite, respectful and made a good impression.  They have persisted until they found a job.

These are exactly the types of qualities a good employee exhibits.  Considering the whole person will allow these traits to be revealed.

Need for Honesty

It is essential for felons to recall that in spite of the many reasons for companies not to hire them, not all employers will turn them down.

Regardless of their felony history, it is important for felons to be honest in disclosing any conviction.  If they are not and the background check reveals a felony, their chances for employment are gone.

Disclosing felony convictions provides felon the opportunity to explain their situation and describe the circumstances of their crime.

Depending on the nature of the crime and length of time since the conviction, felons have the opportunity to present their case.

Supporting a Felon in Getting Hired

For families of felons who have a felony, encourage them to be honest and ready to answer any questions about their offense.

Being prepared for these types of issues when applying for a job and having a background check can prevent problems later on.

Be there for them and be honest with them in this situation.  Help them tell the truth and give themselves the best opportunity for success in their new life.

Don’t let them fall into the category of those that no company will hire.

After all, honesty is the best policy for all concerned.

So what do you think about this blog post about why companies don’t hire felons?  Have you or someone you know had a felony and wasn’t hired by companies?  What was that like and how were they successful in dealing with it?   Please tell us in the comments below.


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  • As for myself I’m a convicted felon. I was young and made a bad decision. I’m not a dangerous person. What happened to me fluid happen to anyone under the right circumstances. I don’t think it’s fair however to ruin a man’s life being punished with reminders of what happened in the past. I honestly believe that not all people convicted of a felony should have it on his record forever. Times are changing and so are people and companies. We’re all here to make a living regardless of what we did. If time has passed and the person has been good then a removable action should be sought to save us. It’s not easy for anyone but try not being able to get a job as a dishwasher and tell me how that makes you feel. Not being able to support your family or have agood career. It’s really somthing we need to look at

  • Thought- I’ve heard it said (and studies have been conducted to legitimize the claim) that more than half of those that have committed a crime, have never been caught. Now I have a question. How many of ‘those’ people do you work with right now? I know one that is currently a Paramedic. One of those untrustworthy felonious criminals. The ones you make heroes out of. Or Presidents who’ve admitted to drug use and purchasing sex. Had they been caught, would they have been a President or a Criminal?! Both?! Or are you only a criminal if you get caught?! No one’s fooling anyone!

  • Not all “Felons” has been to prison. I’m a felon who has NEVER even had a judge to sentence myself to time in a county jail. I’ve done felony probation. And that is all. Its amazing how one word (felon) stimulizes people to think so negatively, so quickly.

  • The word Felon in my border state means you are dangerous, untrustworthy and should be shunned from society. The only alternative is to go to a Community College and get into a trade that will allow you to be hired.

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