Business Groups Aim to Change Mindset on Hiring Ex-Convicts

Working with prominent political donor Charles Koch, a number of major trade groups threw their support behind an initiative that aims to encourage employers to consider workers with criminal records for open positions.

The power of a second chance is one that many ex-convicts struggle to receive in the job market. But a number of major business groups, along with the Society for Human Resource Management, are making the case that this situation needs to change.

Recently, SHRM, along with prominent business executive and political donor Charles Koch, launched a campaign called Getting Talent Back to Work, which aims to end a longtime practice all too familiar for many who have served time in prison: a challenge in finding a new job due to their criminal record.

At a recent event, Koch called on companies to remove questions about criminal histories from employment applications, something his own company did in 2015.

“If all of us joined together, think of what a difference we can make,” Koch argued at the event, according to CNN.

Koch has become a notable advocate for criminal justice reform in recent years, offering his voice in support of the First Step Act, a bipartisan bill passed last year that aimed to expand early release programs and modify sentencing laws.

The latest move on the criminal justice reform front thinks in terms of the private sector—and has earned quick support from around the association world, particularly from SHRM, which represents corporate human resources professionals. In a post on the association’s website, President and CEO Johnny C. Taylor Jr. noted that with a third of all U.S. adults having a criminal background, the move is both ethically sound and reflects the needs of modern employers.

“Not only is it the right thing to do—to give a deserving person a second chance—but it is becoming imperative as businesses continue to experience recruiting difficulty at an alarming rate,” said Taylor, who also advises a second-chance nonprofit called Safe Streets & Second Chances, in the news release.

Joining SHRM in pledging to take part are the American Staffing Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Retail Federation, and the National Restaurant Association.

“Employers need to embrace greater inclusivity when recruiting and hiring and give qualified individuals a second chance at success in life—particularly when the U.S. labor market is the tightest in history,” ASA President and CEO Richard Wahlquist said in a news release.

The initiative includes a toolkit for employers [PDF] on how to handle recruitment for formerly incarcerated job applicants.

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Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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