National Network of Sector Partners Report

New Study Finds People with Felony Convictions Do As Well As Other Employees on the Job – If Not Better

“Ban The Box” Update

field notes

During the recently-completed National Reentry Week, the Obama Administration announced plans to “Ban the Box” for tens of thousands of federal jobs. The President also called on private sector businesses to take the Fair Chance Business Pledge and improve their communities by creating a pathway to a job for a formerly incarcerated person.

Now, a new study suggests that employing formerly incarcerated people isn’t just good for those individuals and their communities. It is also good for the businesses that hire them.

The study, presented at an academic conference but not yet peer-reviewed, found evidence that people with felony convictions may do just as well as other employees on the job – if not better. Jennifer Lundquist and Eiko Strader of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and Devah Pager at Harvard University examined how people with felony convictions performed in military jobs and found that termination rates were no higher for enlistees with criminal records than they were for those without a criminal record. People with felony convictions were actually promoted sooner and more often than those without.

The study’s finding is consistent with what employers have previously told NNSP. For example, in a workshop offered by NNSP as part of our 2014 Virtual Conference, Pamela Paulk, Senior Vice-President for Human Resources at Johns Hopkins Health System, told participants that an internal five year study of almost 500 ex-offenders hired through Johns Hopkins’ fair-chance hiring practices found that ex-offenders showed a lower turnover than other hires over the first 40 months of their employment, with very similar promotion and evaluation rates.

A more detailed 3-6 year study of 79 Johns Hopkins employees who were formerly incarcerated found that at the end of the study period 73 were still employed with Johns Hopkins, with only one involuntary termination. Of all employees terminated for misbehavior during Ms. Paulk’s 14-year tenure, she said, not one had been an ex-offender.

Sector partnerships have consistently demonstrated success at helping people with arrests and convictions get good jobs. In its landmark random-assignment study of outcomes for participants in sector partnerships, Public/Private Ventures found that participants who had been formerly incarcerated earned nearly $6,000 more than formerly incarcerated non-participants. In NNSP’s 2014 Virtual Conference, Per Scholas and New Century Careers described their successful programs for helping people with arrests and convictions gain employment.

The Insight Center for Community Economic Development, which hosts NNSP, has a long-standing interest in strategies to promote the employment of people with arrests and convictions. Recently, the Insight Center received a grant from the California State Bar to provide qualified legal services providers with the information, tools, and legal assistance needed as they seek effective workforce development program changes that can lift low-income households not just out of poverty but toward economic security.

Our initial research will focus on how public workforce systems can ensure that people who want to work and have legal barriers to employment have access to needed legal services, how public workforce systems can promote fair-chance employment practices among employers who receive workforce services, and other promising and effective practices for public workforce systems to improve employment outcomes for people who face legal barriers to employment.

We would like to invite you to contact us if you are involved in providing services to people with arrests and convictions and would like more information and the opportunity to use tools and information we develop in your work.


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