Have you ever been convicted of a crime

An overwhelming 65 million Americans with criminal records face significant barriers to employment each day. Most applications for employment include a box that asks, “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” Check the box, and nowadays, the application most likely goes to the trash. In 2009, a team of Princeton and Harvard researchers found that having a criminal record in New York city reduced the likelihood of a callback or job offer by nearly 50 percent. It doesn’t matter if you finished serving your time, committed a crime decades ago, or whether the crime would impact the quality of your work.
In the aftermath of 9/11, the background check industry skyrocketed. In 2007, private intelligence companies, like ChoicePoint, reported $253 million in employee-screening revenue and, last year alone, the FBI preformed a record 16.9 million criminal background checks, a six-fold increase from over a decade ago. Economists at the Center for Economic and Policy Research estimate that the United States has at least 12 million individuals with criminal records of working age, who account for about 1.5 percent of our unemployment rate, costing the economy between $57 and $65 billion in lost output.Republican and Democratic lawmakers in 10 states and over 51 cities have already enacted Ban the Box policies, eliminating the check-box that asks about an applicant’s criminal record. The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission also ruled this year that employers cannot deny people jobs based on arrest or conviction records. Despite the groundswell of legislative action by states, Congress has not followed suit.

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