If ever I’ve heard a dumb idea, it’s this one.
Businesses that ask a job applicant about his or her criminal history during the hiring process could be fined and forced to pay the applicant up to $500 under a new law being considered by city leaders.
A Los Angeles City Council committee backed a plan Tuesday to penalize businesses that weed out applicants based on criminal convictions.
The rules are part of a law under consideration by the council aimed at giving former convicts a better shot at obtaining employment.
. . .
Los Angeles non-profits, churches, and other groups support the law, contending it will cut jail recidivism rates by helping former convicts land jobs.
Both the state and federal governments have similar rules in place for applicants seeking public sector jobs, while San Francisco has laws that also apply to private companies.
There’s more at the link.
I can understand what the framers of this law (and the existing regulations along the same lines) are trying to achieve. They see a problem (which really does exist, let me add) with former convicts unable to get work because of their criminal history. They therefore intend to deal with that problem by making it illegal to even ask about applicants’ criminal history.
However, this ignores the reality that over two-thirds of those convicted of crimes in the United States will commit further offenses. I wrote about this problem in my memoir of prison chaplaincy. Since I wrote that book, further authoritative research has confirmed and extended the statistics I cited in it. The National Institute of Justice states baldly:
Bureau of Justice Statistics studies have found high rates of recidivism among released prisoners. One study tracked 404,638 prisoners in 30 states after their release from prison in 2005. The researchers found that:
- Within three years of release, about two-thirds (67.8 percent) of released prisoners were rearrested.
- Within five years of release, about three-quarters (76.6 percent) of released prisoners were rearrested.
- Of those prisoners who were rearrested, more than half (56.7 percent) were arrested by the end of the first year.
- Property offenders were the most likely to be rearrested, with 82.1 percent of released property offenders arrested for a new crime compared with 76.9 percent of drug offenders, 73.6 percent of public order offenders and 71.3 percent of violent offenders.
Again, more at the link, and at the referenced BJS report (link is to an Adobe Acrobat document in .PDF format). Those figures track an earlier BJS study (which I cited in my book) very closely. You can read more about the problem of recidivism here.
This demonstrated, proven reality means that two out of three of those whom businesses are forced to hire under this proposed regulation are likely to act in such a way as to harm that business, either by association, or by crimes committed within or against it and/or its customers. Therefore, how can it possibly be a good idea to force businesses to hire them?
Those behind this proposed new law don’t care about that, of course. They’re solving the problem of one group in society at the expense of another – and the first group has families, friends and supporters who vote, whereas businesses don’t have the vote. That says it all, right there. They’re pandering to their electorate. The rest of us can go pound sand, as far as they’re concerned.