How to guarantee theft, fraud and other crimes in business

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.



  1. I hear it is also nearly impossible for these convicted felons to buy a gun too. Obviously, this law should apply equally to federal and state forms for firearms purchases. With no legal way to buy guns, poor criminals still need access to self defense mechanisms, so they are forced into buying their guns illegally. I see no problem with this. Of course, using those guns to commit further crimes would still be illegal.

  2. The question I have is one of liability. If a "former criminal" commits a crime as part of the business, is the business now held responsible, since the crime was committed by one of its' agents? I can see that as a Catch-22 situation, where the business can't refuse to hire a criminal, but is then held responsible for the crimes the criminal commits. And I see this as yet another example of our 'elites' trying to destroy American life. The "former criminals" just form a handy cudgel.

    As an aside, I can see criminals make a "profession" of going from business to business, getting the $500 for the each interview, in the way that others make a "profession" of suing business, for a settlement.

  3. This won't stop anyone outside the retail/fast food sector from rejecting convicts, it just changes the point at which the employer finds out. There are many services that will do a background check for a modest fee, and assuming you use a competent/honest service the record will show up. Just one more cost added to the trouble of finding new employees.

  4. How does this affect business that are required to do background checks? Some that come to mind are Day Cares, Schools, Security officers, Banks, and so on – will they be caught in a trap where they are both not allowed to AND required to?

  5. Thinking about it further, this is the same purpose as Obama & HUD mandatorily placing Section 8 housing in communities across the United States under threat of Federal lawsuit, if refused. The objective is to corrupt and/or destroy the community or institution, and the language of "fairness" is how it's being accomplished. Note, it doesn't have to be a large number of infiltrators to destroy the institution, the Catholic Church proved that. It just has to be enough so people lose faith in the institution, and don't trust it; and then it'll be destroyed.

  6. Surely one must also consider why people commit and recommit crimes. And not just what they tell you about why they did it. If there's little difference between being in jail and out of jail, except that being out of jail is harder, then you shouldn't be surprised that people commit crimes.

  7. @m4: Yes, but that has little or nothing to do with forcing businesses to hire former convicts. It still exposes the former to an unacceptable level of risk. They should not have to pay the price for the justice system's failed efforts at rehabilitation.

  8. There is already an exodus of businesses from California. It would seem this law may add to the number of businesses leaving.

  9. @Peter: Actually it does. If it's so bad to force them to do so, you must first concede that they would not hire them otherwise. So if a criminal has no avenue to be hired, how do you intend they become productive members of society? They can't work in the real world and they don't need to work in jail. Jail then also provides accommodation and food. Makes a clean life near impossible and a continued life of crime a near certainty.

  10. I haves mixed feelings on this.

    Some laws / convictions are a joke, and your stuck with the stigma forever. An example was a person is a convicted sex offender, since they cheated on their wife while in the military during a nasty divorce.

    And how many people reoffend because they can't get a job.

    And violence seems to go down as you age. A 20 something is usually a lot more violent than a 40 something.

    On the other hand super high recidism rate in the us, which some other countries don't seem to have. Culture issue?

  11. You talk about convicts, but that is not the actual extent of things. Lots of people convicted of victimless crimes, who did not end up with a jail sentence, still have to deal with the difficulty of employment with a conviction record. The whole criminal court system in the US is based on recidivism rates, and would collapse without it. It is designed to create criminals of record, which is the feeder system for it.

    There is a small group of violent offenders. All others are essentially part of the farm/AA system for the courts and police. Whether they want to be or not.

  12. In the D.C. area there's been a chain of small restaurant/coffee shops around for over 40 years that was started by an ex-con who hires only convicts who need: a) a job to get early release from jail, or b) have served their time, been released and need a job, period. I've been told – by cops, who should know – that no one without a felony conviction need apply because you won't be hired, and that the chain is ruthless in enforcing performance and behavior standards among the employees.

    One way around the "background check verboten" thing is to require prospective employees provide a valid and current state-issued concealed firearms carry permit as part of the application process to first, let the state do the background check, and second, allow the applicant to pay for it ("We (insert business name here) occasionally handle cash and the person assigned to make the nightly bank drop may be required to be suitably armed as a matter of self defense"). Not as comprehensive as what an employer will get back from submitting an applicant's 10-print card, but I'm not aware of any of Obama's 57 states that will issue one to felons or violent misdemeanants. This, of course, won't work in the Dark Blue states in which only the Congressman's brother-in-law can get a CCW.

  13. I recently – in the last month – had occasion to call this the sin of the Pharisees to the entire Virgina United Methodist Annual Conference. After all, it's a proposal to be "virtuous" while using violence to put the cost on someone else they don't like.

    No reaction. I wonder about them.

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