Quintile Policy Vision: Anti-discrimination Job Hiring – Chelsea Collins- MSW Paper for Social Welfare, 2015. Marywood University.
United States employers will no longer be able to inquire about a prospective employee’s crime history on a hiring application. During the interview process a company may inquire about criminal history, but only if it directly affects the position applied for. For example, a person who has been convicted of a crime that has involved his license being revoked would be obligated to inform the employer if he was applying for a job that required him to operate a vehicle. The US Department of Labor will create a new division to audit businesses to ensure their compliancy to the policy and that they are not discriminating against people with a criminal background. The aim of this policy will be to end discrimination against ex-offenders and help this population gain employment.
The United States of America has the highest prison population in the world. Although the United States only makes up 5% of the global population, it is responsible for 25% of the global prison population. Currently, 2.3 million people are incarcerated. Roughly 3% of the US population, or 1 out of 31 adults, are under some type of legal supervision, whether that be incarceration, probation, or parole. (Southern Poverty Law Center [SPLC] n.d.) This broken system is multifaceted and needs its own set of policies and research to help aid in reform.
What often is not discussed is the case poverty that a criminal record can perpetuate. Ramakers et al.’s 2014 study reported that potential employers are only half as likely to call back a potential candidate who has a criminal record. In addition, the study found that those with criminal backgrounds earn on 10-15 percent less than their counterparts who do not have criminal records and have a slower earing rate over time. If the subject of these facts were any population other than those with criminal records it would immediately be recognized as discrimination.
Institutional Racism can be seen when it comes to the demographics of prison population. Out of the 2.3 incarcerated, nearly 1 million are African Americans. African Americans are 6 times more likely to be incarcerated than whites. Hispanics and African Americans disproportionally make up 58% of prisoners as of 2008 even though they only make up a quarter of the population. 1 in 6 African American men had been incarcerated as of 2002. If this trend continues one third of black men born today will be incarcerated. (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People [NAACP] 2015)
It should be noted that these trends indicate the presence of the “New Jim Crow”. African American’s history of slavery has been modernized into the criminal justice system. The shift to a new penology also has made prisons less of a place for rehabilitation, and instead an institution that focuses on controlling prisoners as a way of risk management. Although many prisons do offer some type of job training or educational programs to increase prisoner’s prospective human capital upon release, they are more focused at keeping the peace of the institution.
These statistics of African Americans and Hispanics in prison ties into the disproportion of these same populations in poverty, only cementing their place in relation to America’s social stratification. In 2010 the poverty rate for African Americans was 27.4 percent, which is almost 3 times higher than whites. Hispanics had a poverty rate of 26.6 percent. (Karger and Stoesz, 2014) By comparing these percentages to the percentages of African Americans and Hispanics incarcerated it is easy to see the correlation between race, poverty, and incarceration. A public policy that helps ex-offenders gain employment will positively raise the income and employment rates for those in the fifth quintile.
This policy will have substantial short term and long term effects on the US’ welfare state. It will directly help those with a criminal history and their family. It will also improve their community by the presence of less discouraged workers spending time idle, which eventually may lead back to criminal activity. The policy will also help fulfill state and federal workfare requirements, and the amount of social wage that people collect will be less, since less people will be on welfare due to unemployment. After time, and on a much wider scale, this policy has the possibility to increasing the United States’ Human Development Index since more employed people will have more income.
The policy will aid to developing the institutional conception of social welfare, since money that would otherwise be spent on aiding the unemployed with criminal records now can be utilized on improving other programs, such as public education. It is a curative approach to poverty in the idea that it will aim to end chronic poverty by helping people gain work, and therefore also help reduce the current rate of recidivism.
At the workplace, the policy will help end economic discrimination between workers who have a clean record compared to those who do not, since this information will not be obligated to be disclosed. It also will help employers gain the best possible workforce. A person with a criminal record may be the most qualified candidate for a position, but in the past would be looked over due to their history. This policy will also help break the cycle all too often observed of generations of family members who have trouble with the law. The current generation will have the opportunity to set an example for future generations by not returning to jail and finding employment after release. By observing this example, future generations will have role models that are not constantly stuck in the revolving door of the penal system. This can help reduce crime in years to come.
Of course there will be opposition to this policy, especially from neoconservatives. The argument can be had that this will help reduce America’s welfare state by producing job holding citizens as opposed to creating a caste of unemployables. Employers may be less than happy to implement this policy out of fear of hiring criminals. However, it should be stressed through campaigns promoting this policy that people who have been convicted of crimes are not products of eugenics and are not inherently bad people. Instead they are people who deserve basic human rights, along with the chance to achieve the “American Dream”. If the public’s view on those with criminal history can change, then the discrimination this population has endured can finally begin to erode. Larger corporations should also recognize that employing people who normally would have a very difficult time of finding employment as a type of commonweal and part of their corporate responsibility. This policy should in fact please proppants of the residual conception of social welfare school of thought.
It is predicted that there will be some possible negative effects of this policy, such as more incidents of workplace related crime; however the policy should be implemented and molded until it can successfully break the barriers of those with a criminal history who want to work. As with all radical ideas, this policy will take time for the United States citizens to accept, especially because it involves the realization that there has been a large population which has endured discrimination quietly. By helping those who cannot help themselves, and changing and creating policies to raise the economic prospects of those in the lowest quintile, the United States will become a stronger and more united country.
SOCIAL JUSTICE REFLECTION- My Person Response
The American prison population is one of the most marginalized communities. This can be attributed to the fact that the population is locked away behind thick walls, so the “out of sight, out of mind” mind-set can help ignore their existence. Another reason for their marginalization is that the majority of those effected by the penal system are members of the lower rungs of society; therefore their wellbeing it is not a priority of those in power. Although people who have criminal history have made mistakes, they should not automatically be denied the opportunity for success later in life. The fact that the majority of those who end up behind bars are poor and African American has something to say about how the United States cares about his population in general. By not helping this population integrate back into society by the capability to find work is oppositional to social justice.
Social justice is a term which is defined best on an individual basis. My own idea of the concept is to do as much good for as many people as possible so that humanity is positively affected. Part of the NASW code of ethics is to work towards social and political policy in order to increase social justice. If a social worker losses sight of what the ultimate goal of the profession is, raising social justice, then they are not compliant with what it means to be a social worker.
In my professional life I hope to be a crusader for social justice. I hope to stay current with what is happening in the world around me in order to be aware of those who are in need. By working for a think tank or an NGO I hope that I will never lose sight of what it means to be a social worker and strive to consciously be aware of what my social justice mission is.
Karger, H. & Stoesz, D. (2014). American Social Welfare Policy: A Pluralist Approach. Seventh
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. (2015). Criminal Justice FactSheet. Retrieved September 28th, 2015 from http://www.naacp.org/pages/criminal-justice-fact-sheet.
Ramakers, A., Apel. R., Nieuwbeerta, P., Dirkzwager, A., & Van Wilsem, J. (2014).
Imprisonment Length and Post-Prison Employment Prospects. Criminology, 52(3), 401-402. Retrieved from http://marywood1.marywood.edu:2125/Direct.asp?AccessToken=9I55QIM8X5JXDEKMQEM9M5DE5J458IQJ54&Show=Object
Southern Poverty Law Center. (n.d.). Mass Incarceration. Retrieved September 28th, 2015 from https://www.splcenter.org/issues/mass-incarceration.