Given a workforce facing unprecedented skills gaps and a country where tens of thousands of state and federal inmates are being released back into their communities every month, finding a way to integrate previously incarcerated persons into the workforce is a worthy cause. Many people with criminal histories are eager to work, but have a hard time finding an employer willing to give them a chance.
Companies are understandably concerned about the safety of their workers and customers as well as their own assets and public image. But today, many HR professionals are finding that the best approach to hiring individuals with criminal backgrounds is not so different from the one they use for everyone else: to evaluate each candidate on his or her merits. That doesn’t mean throwing caution to the wind or forgoing background checks; rather, it’s about giving candidates with criminal backgrounds a chance to be included in the selection process, carefully assessing the nature of their crimes and the time since conviction, and balancing overall risks against potential rewards.