The Internet and the proliferation of screening companies that perform background checks can cause problems for the 65 million Americans who have an arrest or conviction on their record, says the New York Times. The pool of job seekers includes more people with criminal histories than ever before, a legacy of stiffer sentencing and increased enforcement for crimes like drug offenses.
“We're spending a tremendous amount of money incarcerating people and then creating a system where it's almost impossible for them to find gainful employment,” said Adam Klein, an employment lawyer. Many companies screen out anyone who has a hint of criminal activity in his or her background, in violation of government guidelines that demand that employers take into account the severity of an offense, the length of time that has passed, and its relevance to the job in question. Studies on repeat criminality indicate that “it is no longer accurate to say that individuals with criminal records are always a higher risk than individuals without a criminal record,” said criminologist Shawn Bushway of the University at Albany.