Anyone with a criminal record has known the anguish and frustration of trying to find a job upon release from imprisonment. Is justice truly served by employment discrimination against returning citizens. The term “Returning Citizen,” is a positive way of describing an individual released from prison. The use of the labels, ex-felon or ex-offender, have created a negative, hostile, and discriminating environment for the returning citizen. Americans are astonished at our high recidivism rates without considering their connection to the high unemployment rates for our returning citizens. An employed individual is usually less likely to commit another offense.
The returning citizen fills out the job application which demands information about a criminal record. After submitting the application, the returning citizen is not called for a job interview despite having the required qualifications. The potential employer’s mind has closed to any thought of an interview despite the applicant’s qualifications and his eagerness to work. The District of Columbia almost adopted a credible “Returning Citizens Anti-Discrimination Act.” This act would have prohibited an employer from asking questions about a prior record until a provisional job offer was offered to the applicant. An employer after receiving the information at that point could refuse to hire based upon the prior criminal record, if there was a “relevant relationship” between the proposed job and the prior record. This act would result in many more interviews that are prevented by disclosing the applicant’s record in a pre-interview questionnaire.
There is hope since other cities such as Boston and San Francisco, have adopted such reforms. The adoption of such reforms would increase job interviews and employment for the returning citizens and in the end would reduce the abnormal high recidivism rates in the United States.