Policymakers Divided on Health Jobs For Ex-Offenders

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With unemployment falling and workers hard to find, a growing number of health care employers are following the lead of Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins Hospital and giving people with criminal records a second chance, hiring them mainly into entry-level jobs in food service, janitorial services and housekeeping, reports Stateline. Studies show that employees with records stay in their jobs longer and are no more likely to commit workplace crimes than hires without them. This year, Illinois began allowing people with some felony convictions to petition for professional licenses in health care. In 2015, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court struck down down a decades-old law that had prohibited people with certain offenses — from theft to murder — from working in long-term care facilities, home care agencies or adult day centers.

Hospitals, nursing homes and doctor’s offices care for people in the most vulnerable moments of their lives. Citing public safety concerns, some states have gone in the opposite direction, passing laws to keep people with criminal records out of clinical jobs. A Colorado proposal would require doctors, nurses, dentists and other health care professionals to submit a fingerprint-based background check before they can be licensed. A new Indiana law expands background checks for people who work at home health agencies. Roughly one in four U.S. residents has a criminal record. As the health care sector continues to add jobs, state lawmakers and health care employers will have to decide whether ex-offenders will be allowed to fill them.

 

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