Criminal Background Checks and Access to Jobs: A Case Study of Washington, DC

Urban Institute

(July 2017)
Criminal Background Checks Urban Institute

This report examines the collateral consequences specific to job opportunities using Washington, DC, as a case study. Following the national trends highlighted a previous Urban report, criminal background checks can limit the pool of jobs that people with criminal histories in Washington, DC, qualify for and can lead to high unemployment for that population.

But, as the report's authors assert, criminal background checks are only part of the story. In Washington, DC, local regulations and the nature of the labor market add their own limitations to the employment opportunities for people with criminal records. 

In light of these and other challenges, the report looks at practices that could help justice-involved people secure jobs. These programs, some through the city’s government and others through local nonprofits, include the provision of job training and legal recourses for justice-involved people who may have been unfairly denied employment. The report concludes with suggestions for future research to better inform current policy, maintain a sense of the scale of the issue, and improve system-level responses.