Deshotel’s bill a win for everyone

Published 11:54 pm Friday, January 20, 2017

We hope everyone will support State Rep. Joe Deshotel’s bill that could make it easier for those with criminal convictions in their past to find work.

Now, as it stands, employers — especially large national companies — will ask on a job application whether an applicant has a criminal conviction. The conviction could be a misdemeanor conviction for public intoxication over some spring break years ago, but never mind any of that—the conviction will count against the job seeker before anyone has a chance to review the rest of the work history or other qualifications.

A sorting process so arbitrary and blunt will not ensure the best candidate gets the job. According to a 2015 report from the Brennan Center for Justice, over one third of Americans have criminal convictions, though the nonprofit points out that so many Americans have convictions, it is impossible to count them all. Nevertheless, the center estimates that as many Americans have college diplomas as criminal convictions.

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Just as sure as there is overlap between the two camps, there is no doubt that some people with convictions would make suitable employees.

Therefore, Deshotel’s bill is a win for the business community as well as for job seekers.

While a conviction might indicate past poor judgment, it does not necessarily indicate a permanent inability to do good, professional work. Moreover, especially if a conviction is years old, employers should be able to look past an old mistake and offer a person a chance at a meaningful job.

At some point almost all of us will ask for forgiveness for something. We hope Deshotel’s bill will allow businesses a chance to offer that forgiveness.