Job Market Growing Tough For Ex-Offenders


Ex-convict Raul Pesina applied for 100 jobs before finding work as a restaurant cook. USA Today reports that Pesina, 20, of Fort Wayne, Ind., considers himself fortunate. A few years ago, a booming economy meant employers were willing to tap non-traditional labor pools, including ex-offenders. Now, employers are less willing to take a risk.

An estimated 5.6 million adults have been imprisoned at some point and millions more have convictions that never led to jail time. The tough job market is occurring as more than 600,000 people are released from prison each year.

Job candidates with criminal pasts are less likely to be called back after a job interview, according to a study at Northwestern University. While 34 percent of whites without a criminal record received a call back, 17 percent of whites with a criminal record were asked to come back. Just 5 percent of black applicants with criminal records got called back.

More than 40 percent of employers would probably or definitely not be willing to hire an applicant with a criminal record, said a 2001 survey of 619 organizations in Los Angeles.

A number of states bar employees with criminal records from working in a host of industries, such as health care facilities and mental health services. Some laws are recent, passed in the 1990s during the war on drugs. The laws are aimed at keeping ex-offenders with specific criminal pasts from working with vulnerable populations. Critics say some of the restrictions are too broad, objecting to some laws that bar ex-offenders from holding any jobs, including janitorial work, in fields such as health care. A case before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will decide whether a law that bars certain employees with criminal convictions from certain occupations, such as home health care agencies and nursing homes, is legal.


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