U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

In Search of a Job: Criminal Records as Barriers to Employment

NCJ Number
NIJ Journal Issue: 270 Dated: June 2012 Pages: 42-51
Amy L. Solomon
Date Published
June 2012
10 pages
This article is an adaptation of the author's testimony before the Equal Opportunity Commission (July 26, 2011) in her capacity as co-chairperson of the Attorney General's Reentry Council.

The first section of the article presents data to show that nearly one-third of American adults have been arrested by age 23. This means that a significant number of Americans are disadvantaged in seeking employment, given that employers are reluctant to hire persons with arrest records, even though only 4 percent of the arrests in 2009 were for serious violent crimes. Moreover, many of those arrested were never convicted of the crime for which they were charged. This barrier to employment disproportionately impacts African-Americans and Hispanic-Americans and their families, because they are disproportionately arrested in relation to their percentage of the population. The author argues that the issue is not about restricting employers from knowing about a job applicant's criminal history. Rather, the concern is that some employers cast an overly broad and absolute net in banning this population from employment altogether. Job applicants should have an opportunity to be considered for jobs based on their qualifications for performing the job, particularly when their criminal record is not relevant to the job or is not a significant factor in predicting future behavior. Specific guidance is provided for employers and job seekers on the use of criminal records in the hiring process. 2 figures and 38 notes