Offering a fair chance at employment after incarceration

Posted on October 15, 2020 by Richard Murphy

Michiganders with criminal records often face barriers to securing jobs or other opportunities even long after their sentence is served. This is both a challenge to racial equity efforts—especially for Black men, who are more likely to be sentenced and incarcerated than others—and limits former offenders’ ability to contribute economically to their communities.  

The Harvard Business Review argues that employers should act proactively to address these disparities through “Fair Chance” hiring policies. In their article, they lay out the components of these policies, providing a guide to how employers can evaluate the candidate, not just their record: 

stock photo of a job interview

Fair Chance hiring processes are one way to support inclusive workplaces.

  • Be intentional in creating a hiring plan
  • Connect with reentry organizations to find applicants 
  • Conduct skills-based, vs experience-based, interviewing 
  • Assess relevance of criminal record to job role 

Fair chance hiring provides an additional layer to policies that prohibit discrimination based on criminal record. It doesn’t just attempt to subtract a source of bias but actively recognize and address it. (Some research suggests that “ban the box” type policies may inadvertently lead to discrimination against Black candidates without criminal records based on underlying racial biasesmaking these a good starting point to build on, but not a place to stop.) 

Local governments interested in addressing this disparity can play a role not only through their policy-making functions, but in their role as employers, modeling such hiring practices for other local employers.  (Governor Snyder already established such a policy for state hiring in 2018, as discussed in this Mackinac Center editorial.) 

If your community has implemented fair chance hiring practices, please let us know. We’d like to share your policies as an example that other members can use. 

See also: “What does it mean to be welcoming?” on page 18 of the March 2017 issue of The Review.

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