The reluctance of employers to hire people with criminal records, combined with laws that place broad categories of jobs off-limits, is not just a frustration for men with criminal records; it is also causing havoc on our economy. It is preventing millions of American men from becoming productive members of our community.
Surveys show roughly nine in 10 United States employers check databases of criminal records when hiring for at least some positions. Some focus solely on felony convictions; others also consider misdemeanors or arrests.
The share of American men with criminal records — particularly black men — grew rapidly in recent decades as the government pursued aggressive law enforcement strategies, especially against drug crimes. In the aftermath of the Great Recession, those men are having particular trouble finding work. Men with criminal records account for about 34 percent of all nonworking men ages 25 to 54, according to a recent New York Times/CBS News/Kaiser Family Foundation poll.