I was unaware that this was a trend: states and cities making it illegal for employers to ask job applicant’s whether they had been convicted of a crime and served jail time.
It is an unethical, foolish and illogical trend, an example of misplaced compassion being used to justify placing risks on law-abiding citizens for the benefit of those who are less trustworthy.
A news article regarding the problems faced by former prisoners re-entering society quotes Zach Hoover, executive director of LA Voice, a multiracial, faith-based organization working to get such a measure passed in Los Angeles:
“Sometimes people think of someone who’s been in prison and they think only of what they did instead of what they’re doing today. They’ve done their time. They served their sentence, and they’re looking for a job.It’s like double jeopardy. You’ve done your time, and now you get a life sentence of joblessness.”
What utter claptrap:
- Job seekers quite appropriately reveal what they did in the past: it’s called a resume, experience, and qualifications, and employers quite reasonable seek such information. If the good stuff is appropriate to consider before hiring, so is the bad. Next we will have laws banning the request for qualifications—after all, this gives an unfair advantage to the successful, the hard-working, the accomplished and the ambitious.
- They served their sentence because they broke the law. That is relevant information. If a potential employee raped someone, killed someone, set his last place of business on fire, kidnapped a child OR sold drugs to schoolchildren (you know—a non-violent crime. Why do we even sentence anyone for those? ), I should have a right to ask him, and if he lies about it, that disqualifies him right there.
- Hoover seems to be under the impression that prison time is intended as absolution for all sins and misconduct. No, it’s the state’s punishment for law-breaking. Nothing says that the state’s action precludes a former criminal’s victims, which include all of society, from making their own judgments based on what the criminal did, and nothing should.
- It’s nothing like double jeopardy, which holds that once a defendant has been tried and found innocent, he can’t be tried again. It’s double jeopardy if I tell my daughter that she can’t date O.J. Simpson because he, you know, kills women?
- The way to avoid that “life sentence of joblessness” is not to break the law. It’s not that hard, you know.
The argument being put forth LA City Councilman Curren Pricen for his Los Angeles to justify his measure that would prohibit government contractors and private employers from asking about criminal records is that 1 in 4 Angelenos has an arrest or conviction record. Ah. So this is an “everybody does it” justification. The more ex-criminals there are, the fewer consequences they should have to suffer for breaking the law. This qualifies as “progressive thinking” in a lot of communities, apparently.
Let me put this simply, so fools like Pricen and Hoover can comprehend it. I have a right to know anything genuinely relevant to job performance when I am hiring, and the fact that the applicant has—or had—a tendency to break laws is always relevant. (Would Hedley Lamar be banned from asking about prior convictions when he is hiring an army of “rustlers, cut throats, murderers, bounty hunters, desperados, mugs, pugs, thugs, nitwits, halfwits, dimwits, vipers, snipers, con men, Indian agents, Mexican bandits, muggers, buggerers, bushwhackers, hornswogglers, horse thieves, bull dykes, train robbers, bank robbers, ass-kickers, shit-kickers and Methodists”?) Some crimes, like, say, killing his former boss or looting the cash register, are especially relevant. My reward for running a business is that the government is going to make it easier for former felons to get access to my trust without me being fully informed? Am I going to be banned from voting against the idiots who make unethical laws like this too?
Here is the ugly truth: too many minority Americans are breaking laws, so to appeal to their increasingly criminal constituencies, irresponsible politicians are trying to minimize the consequences of crime, as well as the stigma attached to it. This is yet another example of the government offering perverse incentives. My right to know who I’m hiring and how trustworthy he or she is should be respected, preserved and accorded higher priority than a former criminal’s fully-justified problems stemming from his own anti-social and unethical actions.
I was once challenged to name a single reason why ex-felons shouldn’t have the right to vote. Here’s one of them: they will vote for irresponsible, transparency-opposing officials like Curren Pricen.