Are Criminal Background Checks Misleading Employers? 


On November 30, JOTF partnered with the Re-Entry of Ex-Offenders Clinic at the University of Maryland School of Law to host a public forum on the use of criminal background checks by employers. 

Kiminori Nakamura, assistant professor in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Maryland, presented findings from research he co-authored while at Carnegie Mellon UniversityClick here to view his PowerPoint presentation.

Nakamura’s report, “Redemption in an Era of Widespread Criminal Background Checks,” finds that there is a way to actuarially estimate a point in time when an individual with a criminal record is of no greater risk of committing another crime than any other individuals of the same age.  His analysis provides the criminal justice community with the first scientific method for estimating how long is long enough for someone with a prior record to remain arrest-free before he or she should be considered “redeemed” by prospective employers. 

Donald Washington and Steve O’Neill from Massachusetts-based Ex-Prisoners and Prisoners Organizing for Community Advancement (EPOCA) presented an overview of the recent legislative overhaul of Massachusetts’ criminal background check system. 

EPOCA members played an instrumental role in the victory which included banning the box on both state and private sector employment applications, and reducing the time for sealing felony convictions from 15 to 10 years, and misdemeanors from 10 to 5 years.  Click here to view the Massachusetts legislation.

O’Neill described the large coalition of organizations that came together to support the legislation while Washington highlighted the tremendous impact that was made by the number of individuals with criminal records who got involved in advocating for themselves.  Click here for a copy of the EPOCA handout that was distributed at the forum

JOTF Executive Director, Jason Perkins-Cohen, closed the forum by informing participants that legislation will be reintroduced during Maryland’s upcoming 2011 legislative session to ban the box from state job applications.  Those who are interested in lending support to the bill should contact JOTF’s Senior Policy Advocate, Melissa Broome at 410-234-8046.

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