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Viewpoint: Give Second Chance a Chance

Society for Human Resource Management

By Jathan Janove

Each year in the United States, 700,000 men and women are released from prison and re-enter society, where many want to find jobs. Yet despite U.S. employers’ growing need for workers, formerly incarcerated applicants face a huge obstacle in achieving gainful employment: criminal background checks.

At the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) 2018 Annual Conference & Exposition in Chicago, SHRM President and Chief Executive Officer Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, made it clear that second-chance employment—hiring employees with a conviction history—is a SHRM priority and initiative.

In collaboration with the Charles Koch Foundation, SHRM recently surveyed managers and HR professionals on their attitudes toward hiring candidates with criminal pasts. Survey results show increasing awareness and understanding that a criminal background should not disqualify someone from employment.

However, as Taylor notes, “Willingness to hire in theory doesn’t necessarily mean willingness to hire in practice.”

So what are the obstacles that prevent otherwise open-minded HR professionals and managers from hiring someone with a criminal past—and what would convince them to give these applicants a second chance?

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