The ability for employers to require potential employees to submit whether they have committed a felony in the past on a job application is in the center of a national debate. It is wrong to ask this question to be removed because a person’s past needs to be learned in order to determine if he or she is the correct applicant. Employers have every right to ask whether their potential employees have a criminal past.
President Barack Obama discussed this issue in a speech held in Newark, New Jersey on Nov. 2. He addressed the fact that many convicted felons, who receive early releases, soon return to prison in part because they are unable to find jobs during the time of their release. Obama argued that opportunities for employment or education would prevent many of these former prisoners from returning to jail and would help them pursue an eventual career.
Be that as it may, employers should be allowed to inquire about exactly who they are hiring. If the potential employee has a criminal past, the employer is obligated to ask what it is so he or she can determine if that person would be a right fit for the job. If a job applicant had been convicted for selling drugs, would he or she be suitable for a job inside of a school? Employers can never be secure in the knowledge that a former criminal will not return to their old habits. By ignoring the criminal history of their potential employees, employers risk putting those for whom they are responsible at risk. In a school, these would be innocent children.
The difficulty in finding a career post-incarceration should act as a deterrent to future would-be criminals. It is important that this deterrence stays intact so that people may think twice before committing a crime.
A person makes a life changing choice when he or she commits a crime. They know they may have to forfeit extents of their lives to spend time in prison, miss out on important personal events, forgo their dreams and ruin their futures. Society cannot, and should not, change that for them. They made the choice, and now they have to deal with the consequences.
Released prisoners should view the question on applications as an act of redemption. Admitting that one has, in the past been, convicted of a felony shows a willingness to be open with one’s potential employer. Most employers will choose to conduct background checks on their employees; the employer has the ability to know one’s past whether or not the question remains on the application. If the applicant is given a chance to admit the crime, they can choose to demonstrate their own integrity. The question should remain to allow applicants to show a sense of morality and to show that they are working on improving their life.