Jobs After Jail: Ending the Prison to Poverty Pipeline

Alliance for a Just Society

(February 2016)
Jobs After Jail report cover

In many states and cities, both public and private employers can include a question on application materials requiring applicants to disclose whether or not they have a conviction record. While there is growing momentum to “Ban the Box,” in most cases these efforts only ban the box for public employment. Additionally, there are thousands of regulations across the country restricting or banning those who have been incarcerated from employment in specific occupations and industries. Commonly restricted fields include health care, law enforcement & security, and legal services – all industries that can provide relatively high pay and job stability.

Legislation banning employment in specific occupations only serves to make it more difficult for those with records to rebuild their lives after leaving prison. On average, states have 123 mandatory bans and restrictions for would-be workers with felony convictions per state from employment in occupations or industries, from obtaining certain types of occupational licenses, and/or from obtaining certain types of business or property licenses.

This third report in the 2015-2016 Job Gap Economic Prosperity Series looks at the barriers those with conviction records face in finding high-paying jobs and attaining a measure of financial stability. The report discusses a variety of tools that can give people with conviction records a fair shot at making ends meet. Ban the Box policies banning inquiries into conviction records on employment applications can help prevent discrimination in hiring; reviewing and removing mandatory bans on employment and licensing for specific occupations can broaden access to more types of jobs for those with records. Expanding safety net programs to those with records will also help those unable to find a living wage job to get by.