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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.