Survey Design for TANF Caseload Project: Summary Report and Recommendations. Rational for Why the Topic Was Chosen


The employment needs of individuals with prior criminal involvement are somewhat different relative to those of other job-seeking adults. Although ex-offenders may face some challenges in keeping a job, their primary difficulty is obtaining one. Most job applications require prospective employees to report criminal convictions, and employers are cautious about hiring workers who have a past felony conviction because of the added behavioral risk they may bring to the workplace. In the eyes of employers, a criminal background raises the chance that theft, physical endangerment, substance abuse, and related activities will occur in the workplace. In fact, ex-offenders may be categorically barred from certain types of work in some states, including working with vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly, or the ill. In addition to these barriers, many ex-offenders have limited or sporadic work histories, particularly those who have been incarcerated.

Ex-offenders may have some difficulty maintaining employment due to legal issues requiring them to take time off work or issues that arise as they struggle with the transition from structured prison life to the mainstream. It is unclear whether being on probation or parole may interfere with working.

Despite these challenges, some employers  including those in the construction, assembly work, and manufacturing sectors  often are willing to hire ex-offenders and do not perform background checks on applicants. When the supply of labor is limited, other employers who are not legally prohibited from hiring ex-offenders may be persuaded to hire them. In fact, most employment programs that serve this population focus on helping the ex-offender understand the laws that protect him or her and on working with prospective employers to overcome fears and concerns about hiring an individual with a criminal background.

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