It is becomming more common place to find on the news stories about youths making terrible choices and paying a dear price for them. Many of the youths who commit a crime will face probation, fines, and community service. Others will go straight to jail or make a mistake while on probation and land themselves in jail. Sadly it will be common for many of these offenders to fall back into the behavior patterns that landed them on the skids in the first place. It becomes a matter of life, and sometimes the only way of life these individuals will ever know or understand. A majority of these individuals will come from low income or from below the poverty line. Even if they do not commit any other major offense for the rest of their lives, a majority of these convicts will find themselves hovering around the low income line. It then becomes a question of how we can help turn the tide for these individuals and give them hope for a normal, law abiding life. A major part of the answer can be found in the criminal background and how it effects them as it stands and what can be done to help instead of hinder.
At this point in time it would be difficult for a job seeker to fill out an application that did not contain some form of question dealing with past convictions. Usually the company that you are applying with will also include a disclaimer about how it will not “necessarily” bar you from employment. However, the fact remains that we are judgemental people. There for, more than likely, no matter the qualifications the ex-convict may posses, they will be passed for one with a clean background. In a way, this question becomes an easy and legal way for companies to profile their applicants and employees. True, most companies only check back five, seven, or ten years. Some will go further, but these are the common increments for the questions dealing with felonies. Most companies only go back ten years on criminal background checks.
Here we see that an individual convicted of a felony can still have a chance. That at most they will have to wait ten years to be able to enter a rewarding career that may pay more and provide more for his family. Until then we force these individuals into menial low paying jobs. These are the guys and girls that may be working at McDonalds, Taco Bell, the local pizzeria, the local oil and lube place, and construction. Some will lie on their application hoping they don’t get caught to land a job that can keep them afloat of the poverty line. Forget high paying jobs. Almost all, if not all, major companies would not dare allow a felon to be a CEO; no matter their training.
All the background becomes is another prison baring them from a future. Here is where it gets tricky. Many will live a good life and make the best of what they got. They will be able to move forward with their lives and become great citizens who help their neighbors in times of need. However, many will return to a life of crime. They will survive any way necessary whether that means selling drugs, stealing, or escaping reality by doing drugs. The fact remains that the common motivator for a return to the criminal background is loss of hope. They no longer see themselves as being able to contribute to the welfare of their family or to society and they go back to what they know. It is becomming more and more necessary for us to stop this cycle. Especially as smaller crimes have a tendency to turn into larger crimes. It is a depressing cycle that society has implemented to supposedly protect itself. However, is it not true that the reason these individuals spend time in jail or on probation is to pay their debt to society?
Admittedly there are reasons to have knowledge of an individuals criminal past. Especially if they are commiting current crimes in the workplace. However, it should not have a role in deciding wether or not to employ the individual. Once again, here I will admit that at times if there is a lengthy history of a crime that could occur in the workplace then it would be better off for them not to hire that person. However, as the average citizen learns from their mistakes, so do ex-convicts. The role of the criminal background is pathetic within our economic structure. Look to Enron and it is easy to see that just because someone doesn’t have a felony on their record, doesn’t make them a thief.
Something needs to be done in a rehabilitive role for the common criminal. They need to educate themselves with job skills to be able to re-enter society and be able to contribute to it fully. However, it is our duty to make sure that they can return to the work force. Other wise we become hypocrites and a detriment to our own society. One sulotion would be to out law the question of an applicants background. However, as this is inconcievable then we must take away a companies right to not hire a candidate one the sole count of having a criminal past. Remember, it is the past and not always a reflection of the future. Did we not learn in elementry school the reason to learn history was so that we did not make the same mistakes?