In a previous post, we discussed some of the ways a criminal record can create challenges for a person throughout their life. It has been widely understood that a criminal record-which anyone who has ever been arrested has, regardless of whether they are convicted-can be a major obstacle to gaining employment.
However, recent economic developments have begun to shift the tides on this front. New evidence suggests that people with a criminal record now have an easier time than ever of entering the workforce.
The unemployment rate in the United States is at its lowest point in recent history. The growing demand for workers in many states-in conjunction with the increasingly small pool of available candidates-has led many employers to reevaluate their hiring criteria.
Dane County, Wisconsin-which houses the state's capital-has a 2 percent unemployment rate. Many employers with a growing number of job openings have struggled to fill their positions. Some have turned to atypical avenues of recruitment.
Jordan Forseth is a 28-year old former inmate of a Wisconsin prison. While he was still in custody, he began working for Stoughton Trailers through a voluntary work-release program, doing electrical and assembly work on semitrailers. He received job training and earned the same pay as his colleagues-$14 an hour-with the opportunity to be hired permanently upon his release. After finishing his prison sentence in November, Forseth already had a job lined up plus enough savings to buy a car. He was given a fresh start that many former convicts struggle to obtain.
Not all employers are ready to hire inmates while they're still doing time, but surveys show an increasing willingness by employers to hire people with a criminal record. A growing number of employers no longer require a criminal background check as part of the hiring process.