GRAHAM: Making hiring more fair

Harry Graver argues the “Ban the Box” movement and any other attempts “directed towards supporting convicted felons” should be postponed “until New Haven’s larger fiscal health is restored” (“Don’t Ban the Box,” Oct. 24). What Graver fails to recognize is that positions like this actually reinforce racial inequality and amount to an unnecessary financial burden on the state.

Instead of forming policy based on prejudice against those with criminal records, we should look at the reality of crime and incarceration in this country. With a criminal justice system impacted by race at almost every critical juncture, to overlook the issues of the formerly incarcerated is to ignore the role incarceration plays in increasing racial inequality in the United States.

The Center for Community Alternatives finds a larger percentage of whites aged 18-25 use marijuana than their black and Hispanic counterparts. Yet in New York City, African Americans represent about 25 percent of residents but 52 percent of marijuana arrestees, a difference largely attributable to policing strategies in low versus high-income neighborhoods. This phenomenon is replicated in cities around the country,

Not only are black and Hispanic youth more likely to be arrested on the charge of possession of marijuana, but University of Chicago professor Bernard Harcourt found they are “more likely than their white counterparts to be convicted and sentenced to additional jail time” for an identical offense. It cannot be ignored that while white youth are more likely to use drugs, black and Hispanic youth are more likely to be convicted of drug use. Any resulting economic penalty from a criminal record, therefore, will impact minorities more substantially than any other group.

Devah Pager, a Princeton sociologist, found that compared to applicants with no criminal history, those with equal qualifications but also a felony conviction were offered employment at a much lower rate. Because this study used actors and fictitious resumes, the difference in hiring can be directly attributed to the stigma of a conviction alone.

The penalty from a criminal record was not even across all applicants, however, as the hiring discrimination affected 30 percent of white but 60 percent of black applicants. This outcome underscores the fact that racial inequality still exists. Not only are blacks more likely to be arrested and convicted of offenses than whites; they are also more stigmatized once they leave prison.

Perhaps, however, you may believe Graver is correct that financial solvency and crime reduction in New Haven, rather than the goal of racial equality, is what Yalies should support. Such a viewpoint, however, should still lead us to support movements such as “Ban the Box.”

The National H.I.R.E. Network has found that employment and education are the biggest predictors of recidivism. There is a clear correlation between employment and recidivism, so a concrete step for New Haven to reduce crime would be to increase employment and educational opportunities for the formerly incarcerated.

Considering the cost of recidivism to society, increased employment opportunities would actually help, not hurt, the financial solvency of cities such as New Haven and would represent a proactive step in increasing public safety. A report by the Pew Center on the States finds that if Connecticut reduced its recidivism rate by just 10 percent, it would save $20.8 million in a single year in prison costs.

Graver writes of “convicted felons” as if they are outside our societal obligations, dangerous men and women whom no business should be forced to consider for employment. Our criminal justice system, however, functions on the concept that individuals pay their debt to society in prison.

Advocating for continued discrimination based on past mistakes is inherently unjust. It is also counterproductive, if we value reducing racial inequality, increasing public safety and eliminating unnecessary burdens on taxpayers. Graver urges the candidates for alderman to realize that actions have consequences. I agree — the consequences of continued discrimination against individuals with criminal records are too serious to ignore.

Emily Graham is a junior in Davenport College. Contact her at emily.graham@yale.edu.

Comments

  • thedeadwileytruth

    You hit the ball right out of the park Ms. Graham, says, Eric M. Deadwiley, Author of “Civil Death in New York State, How New York State Utilizes Criminal Conviction Records to Impede the Economic Growth of Formerly Convicted People.” Mr. Graver need to research the scientific data out there which suggest that employment discrimination of formerly incarcerated people is hurting our economy. In a capitalistic society, you need “tax revenue” for an economy to strive. When you lock-out the estimated “81 million” people with convictions on their public record, a 1 in 4 person margin, you are practically tossing your economic growth in the trash can. Under “Civil Death policies,” the notion of “paying your debt to society” does not exist. Civil Death is a practice that punishes a person “for life!”

  • RexMottram08

    From Stanford University research:

    Employers who regularly screen for the criminal record of applicants have a HIGHER employment acceptance rate of young black men. Employers who do not use actual criminal records and instead use other screening mechanisms (i.e. race) overestimate the criminality of their applicants and reject them at a higher rate. This not only immediately qualifies an applicant without a criminal past; it is able to mitigate some of the effects of having a criminal record by distinguishing between lesser offenses and serious crime.

  • River_Tam

    > Devah Pager, a Princeton sociologist, found that compared to applicants with no criminal history, those with equal qualifications but also a felony conviction were offered employment at a much lower rate.

    No sh*t.

    > Because this study used actors and fictitious resumes, the difference in hiring can be directly attributed to the stigma of a conviction alone.

    You’re telling me people are less likely to trust someone to be responsible when they know they’ve committed a felony? Well, I’ll be.

  • JohnnyE

    >Devah Pager, a Princeton sociologist, found that compared to applicants with no criminal history, those with equal qualifications but also a felony conviction were offered employment at a much lower rate.

    In other news, applicants with 2.0 GPAs are accepted to college at a much lower rate than those with 4.0 GPAs, all other qualifications equal.

    >Advocating for continued discrimination based on past mistakes is inherently unjust.

    No, past behavior is the **most** just thing to judge people on.

  • River_Tam

    > No, past behavior is the most just thing to judge people on.

    #occupythepast

  • thedeadwileytruth

    JohnnyE,

    “No, past behavior is the most just thing to judge people on.” Then maybe blacks should judge whites on the “hundreds” of years of rape, murder, lynching,mis-education and slavery of our people. After-all, according to you sir, past behavior is the biggest predictor of future behavior.

  • River_Tam

    > Then maybe blacks should judge whites on the “hundreds” of years of rape, murder, lynching,mis-education and slavery of our people. After-all, according to you sir, past behavior is the biggest predictor of future behavior.

    Yes, because an individual’s past behavior and the past behavior of people who share one’s racial composition are completely the same thing.

    Bravo, gold star.

  • JohnnyE

    thedeadwileytruth,

    I do not believe that even you think that was a well-reasoned or intellectually honest argument.

  • thedeadwileytruth

    JohnnyE, I do not believe that even you think that was a well-reasoned or intellectually honest argument.

    I guess the point I’m trying to make JohnnyE, is that people change. I was not trying to argue with you at all. When the court sentences someone for a crime, the sentence is a “punishment” meant to change the “behavior” of the person convicted. Empirical data suggest that (over time) people tend to change and mature out of certain behaviors. I think that employers should have the right to research the criminal history of potential employees. However, I do not believe that a person who committed a crime more than 20 years earlier should have to explain to an employer why he or she committed that crime so far in the past. This is to say, that a person should have the “right to remain silent” on the issue if the crime is more than 20 years old. This will give the employer the right to attain the information, while allowing the applicant to maintain their dignity in the hiring process. This ridiculous notion that you can somehow “explain” to an employer the reason why (and the circumstances behind) you committing a crime, is pure “garbage.” If you have a “murder” on your record, there is nothing you could say to a potential employer to make them trust you. In the final analysis, Ban the Box is like putting a “Band Aid” on a flat tire. Yet, with that being said, it is only a first step in the process of “decriminalizing” the American Society.

  • River_Tam

    The way to decriminalize American society is to have people commit fewer crimes.

    The way to have people commit fewer crimes is by incentivizing lawfulness.

    Ban the Box disincentivizes lawfulness.

  • River_Tam

    > However, I do not believe that a person who committed a crime more than 20 years earlier should have to explain to an employer why he or she committed that crime so far in the past.

    So do you support removing criminal convictions from the public record?

  • thedeadwileytruth

    River_Tam, So do you support removing criminal convictions from the public record?

    Yes, in fact, the scientific data supports removing the inquiry and information after a certain amount of time of being crime free. (See) “Scarlet Letters and Recidivism” by Prof. Megan Kurlychek et el. Also, (See) “Redemption in an Era of Widespread Criminal Background Check’s” by Prof. Alfred Blumstein and Kiminori Nakamura. Their research studies “risk factors” of people with criminal records as opposed to people with no criminal background. Their research concluded that after approximately 7 years remaining crime free, a formerly convicted person is no more likely to commit a crime on a job than a person with no criminal background.

  • RexMottram08

    The underlying argument of thedeadwileytruth:

    If we decriminalize crime, then we won’t have any more criminals!

  • charlesdarwin

    YES, I was student at Yale 20-years… I Never, Never, Never thought academics do it for the Money.. There is little or no money in academic….. Academics do it in search for the truth or Knowledge.

    Yale, like MIT, should post All classes, online, for free free free.

    MIT, giving 2000-classes away for free free free

    Bill Gates/Warren Buffet: giving wealth away… give it away, we cannot take it with us.. .give it away…..100 million to 1000 million can see for free free free anytime/anywhere.. give it away for free free free free..

    PUBLIC / PRIVATE COLLEGE: yes. give it away free free free….

    I’ m class of 1990… I remember many happy days lectures parties on the New Haven campus.

    Yale can be a “global university” in 21st. century…….

    As Anyone who has been to a college campus knows: there are good/bad courses… good / bad professors.