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Credentialing Decisions and Criminal Records: A Narrative Approach

NCJ Number
Criminology Volume: 56 Issue: 4 Dated: 2018 Pages: 715-749
Megan Denver; Alee Ewald
Date Published
35 pages
Since little is known about which types of information employer and state occupational licensing officials use in hiring decisions that involve criminal record checks, such as how they evaluate evidence and how they ultimately make determinations, this study examined a sample of 50 unarmed security guard licensing decisions in New York State using content analysis.

Licensing and hiring decisionmakers are often encouraged or required to incorporate evidence of rehabilitation into hiring decisions when applicants have criminal records. Current policy movements at the local, state, and federal levels may increase the use of such individualized assessments. The current study found that administrative law judges rely on a narrative framework to document whether applicants currently have a prosocial identity and merit licensure. Judges typically describe one of two prosocial identity narratives for successful applicants that include the applicant demonstrating meaningful change, or his or her criminal record represents an aberration. Two factors seem vital to these assessments, i.e., applicants' postconviction trustworthiness, as demonstrated through good conduct or inferred through positive appraisals, and credible testimony. In narrative explanations, personal responsibility and adult milestones are often discussed, reflecting a judicial nod to the notion of a "transition to adulthood." These results have implications for scholars and policymakers in examining employment barriers, stigma remediation, and collateral sanctions for individuals with criminal records. (publisher abstract modified)