COMMENT
Employing Ex-Offenders: Shifting the Evaluation of Workplace Risks and Opportunities From Employers to Corrections
Kristen A. Williams* 
55 UCLA L. Rev. 521

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Abstract

Employers would just as soon not hire ex-offenders. They see the potential for workplace violence or theft, negligent hiring liability, and public relations nightmares. Because current law places the burden on employers to evaluate the risk that a particular ex-offender poses on the job, but gives them few tools with which to make that evaluation, employers would rather err on the side of caution and turn ex-offenders away. This Comment shows that the current system of employer evaluations is based on exaggerated fears and leads to ex-offender unemployment, which is likely to make our communities less safe, rather than more. However, though tort reform and workplace antidiscrimination statutes are part of this Comment’s proposal, the solution to this problem cannot be found in the employment context alone. Instead, making ex-offender employment safe and rehabili¬tative will require cooperation between employers and corrections departments. Corrections departments currently evaluate ex-offender risk for commu¬nities and have access to information far superior to that provided to employ¬ers in background checks. Thus, as this Comment argues, employers should be encouraged to rely on assessments by corrections officers of any workplace risk an ex-offender applicant might pose. While this will be a positive step, this Comment goes further to suggest that corrections depart¬ments should have an even larger role to play in ex-offender employment: one based less on the sort of fear, discrimination, and avoidance of liability that drives our current system of risk evaluation by employers, and more on a commitment to reentry success through accurate information and community partnerships.


* Chief Managing Editor, UCLA Law Review, Volume 55. J.D. Candidate, UCLA School of Law, 2008; M.F.A., University of California, Irvine, 2004; B.A., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2001.

3 comments to Employing Ex-Offenders: Shifting the Evaluation of Workplace Risks and Opportunities From Employers to Corrections

  • “Thus, as this Comment argues, employers should be encouraged to rely on assessments by corrections officers of any workplace risk an ex-offender applicant might pose” It’s very obvious that the author of the above article has never been to prison as a prisoner to comprehend first hand the prisoner/guard relationship. Relying on ‘accessments by [sic] corrections [sic] officers’ is like relying on the Ku Klux Klan to hold the office of the US Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division. It’s well documented that prisoners are brutalized by their captors. This isn’t new information but rather continuing information. How the author came upon his conclusion is amazing considering his position and the available information which suggest very strongly that relying on a prison guards ‘accessment’ of a former prisoner would indeed be highly critical. In addition, this ‘assessment’-as the author puts forth-would be conducted by maybe high school graduates….maybe. When I was in prison you didn’t need a high school diploma to be a prison guard; you only needed to pass a civil service exam. So you would have some guards with less of an education than those they hold captive providing what I would consider a comprehensive analysis of crime and the prisoner in question with maybe a high school background to help. Of course the author goes on to suggest that perhaps the department of prisons should have a greater role (thus eliminating biased ‘assessments’ from guards who hold no degree or diploma attesting their experience to perform those ‘assessments’)in this area. Where does the author think the prison complex’s information would be obtained??? Prison guards! They interact on a daily basis with prisoners unlike those in the administrative departments of prisons, and form a unique relationship which has already been discussed and analyzed by countless individuals easily found by googling key words or phrases.
    The only point that the author puts forth of any significance is the fact that private sector employers’ business interests in not hiring ex-offenders is based on fear and hype. Nothing new with that considering all the mounting evidence suggesting that individuals WITHOUT criminal backgrounds cause more workplace violence than individuals with criminal backgrounds (and that includes data from companies which hire ex-felons to offset the differences). The real issue is creating legislation which prohibits the felony question on employment applications [with established procedures to address the issues of say sex offenders seeking employment at like a daycare]. The only single role the prison system should play in this is by aggressively educating those confined to its dungeons. Education; the ability to comprehend and understand and make intelligent decisions and to weigh options/consequences, all of this is so important in reducing recidivism in combination to prohibiting private/public employment sectors from discriminating against ex-offenders soley because they are ex-offenders; surely not based on any factual evidence to suggest a true business interest. Provide an offender with aggressive education. Permit the ex-offender to obtain employment without being discriminated against. Watch how fast recidivism decreases. Provide aggressive educational tactics in the community being reinforced with community mentoring, role modeling, police participation (like a block party-similar to what Cincinnati Ohio Police did when they arrested and broke up a gang in an impoverished neighborhood), etc., watch some of the leading reasons behind crime disappear. It doesn’t really take a rocket scientist to figure this out; just several years of imprisonment, poverty, second-class citizenship and a mix of this and that.
    Sincerely,
    Christopher Knecht
    J.E.L. Representative

  • as a side note to the issue above, “195. Unlike employers, who must rely on background check providers, corrections
    officers have access to a greater quantity of records from more official sources. They also
    have ample opportunities to discuss any discrepancies with the ex-offender in the course
    of their supervision. ” Having spent 12 years in prison as a litigator and a little over 4 years on supervision, not once was I told I could review my ‘file’ for discrepancies and being a litigator I would think I would know if that was even available which it wasn’t. Most crime is circumstance crime; person doesn’t have money to eat he or she steals. drug addict needs dope, he or she steals, etc. Simply reviewing the crime imprisoned for with ‘relevant’ information (i.e. previous convictions, sentences, treatment programs-if any, etc)and a determination can quickly be made as to what the motivating factor is (consistently). This isn’t addressing criminals who have mental issues and rape children or women or men or people who kill for reasons other than what I consider justifiable (guy kills child molester/rapist) because they are truly the exception in prison (and pose a threat to prisoners who are circumstance criminals being indoctrinated with criminal ideology to use once released), but if a determination was made (which can be made) that the individual is a circumstance criminal then a solution can be produced (education and employment/treatment/social participation/development, etc). I just find it hard to swallow the fact that decades go by with one form or another being discussed regarding crime yet most don’t point out (and some even will purposely fail to acknowledge)the obvious reasons or solutions to fix those areas.
    Sincerely,
    Christopher Knecht
    J.E.L. Representative

  • micki mouse

    I feel that I was pressured into a plea bargain by the crooked state of texas. They lied and said plea guilty to this crime and you will be able to get it expunged and go back to work. Liars!!! Do NOT believe the da nor any of their affiliates. They all work together. I dont know much about whats written above, but I do know that I have had suicidal thoughts trying to take care of three young children with a deferred adjudication on a state jail felon. No one worth working for will give me a job, and even after my probation was over, still wont hire me.

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