Fewer Jobs for More Criminals

In most articles, I try to write with a certain audience in mind. That being said, I usually carefully craft what I say, as to elicit the best response. In the case of this article though, I’m not going to sugar coat things. I’m just going to be brutally honest. I really don’t feel bad for ex-convicts who can’t find jobs.

For those of you that don’t know, over 30 percent of Americans are arrested for a non-traffic offense by age 23. That number has grown from 22 percent in 1967. In fact, almost half of all men are predicted to be arrested at one point in their lives.

The impact of those arrests will have devastating effects on the remainder of their lives. People who were arrested (and, often times, didn’t even end up serving time) for drugs in the 1980s are still routinely turned down for jobs today. It doesn’t matter how long they’ve been sober or crime-free. More than two-thirds of states now allow hiring and licensing decisions to be based on whether or not a person was ever arrested.

Some people will argue about the “redemption time,” or time that it takes for the likelihood of a person with a criminal history to commit a crime to drop below the likelihood that a person in the same area with no criminal background will commit a crime. Studies in New York tracking convicts from the ’80s show that this time period takes about ten years (keep in mind that recidivism rates gradually decline as time goes on). So is ten years a suitable amount of time before you hire an ex-convict? Employers sure don’t think so.

Many states have regulations barring criminals from ever obtaining certain jobs or licenses built into the framework of their laws. In California, for example, you can’t do a lot of things with a criminal background. You can’t work in a pharmacy. You can’t be a registered veterinary technician. You can’t be a locksmith. These aren’t examples of the employers not wanting to hire someone. This is written into the fabric of our societal laws. And what is so wrong with that?

Here is a group of people who have done bad things. And don’t argue that they didn’t, because by the nature of the sample group, they did. So, here is this group of people that did something wrong, and now they are complaining about being somewhat judged based on that? I’m sorry, but I don’t want someone with a history of heavy substance abuse in charge of my drugs at the pharmacy. If someone has been in and out of prison for armed robberies, why should I put my life in danger by letting him come pick the locks on my house? I understand that people make mistakes, and I agree that maybe there should be fewer state laws about the restriction of employment and leave it up to the employer more, but the bottom line is, a criminal is a criminal.

When they committed whatever crime they did, they knew it was wrong. When they went to trial and were guilty, they knew they would face some life changes. Not being allowed to teach kindergarten after being convicted of sexual assault seems like a pretty fair trade for society.

Besides the fact that criminals can get jobs anyways (UPS is notorious for hiring convicted felons), it seems to me that if people are so worried that they won’t be able to find work after having a run-in with the law, then maybe they just shouldn’t break the law to begin with.


Justin Huft is a third-year psychology and social behavior major. He can be reached at jhuft@uci.edu.