Minor tweak to job applications could reduce crime, FIU researchers find
MIAMI (July 30, 2014) – Have you ever been convicted of a crime?
It’s a simple question often asked on job applications and one that is contributing to a higher crime rate, according to researchers at Florida International University.
Approximately one in four Americans has a criminal record, a distinction many employers are leery of and often use as a reason to reject an applicant. Statistics show that without income from a paying job an ex-offender often will return to criminal activity.
Concerns about potential employees being singled out because they answer yes to that question led the state of Hawaii to ban the question from job applications in 1998. Other states — Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey and Rhode Island — along with several major cities have followed suit.
FIU Criminal Justice researchers Stewart J. D’Alessio, Lisa Stolzenberg and Jamie Flexon examined data from the State Court Processing Statistics for Hawaii and determined the ban-the-box law there actually did reduce repeat offending. Published in the American Journal of Criminal Justice, it is the first study of its kind that links the legislation to improved public safety.
“A simple question where you just check ‘yes’ or ‘no’ actually wields tremendous influence in a person’s chance of getting a job,” said D’Alessio. “Policymakers all across the country should seriously consider ban-the-box legislation to improve the job prospects of ex-offenders. As our research shows, doing so can help reduce crime.”
The team of researchers found that criminal defendants prosecuted in Honolulu County for a felony were 57 percent less likely to have a prior criminal conviction after the ban-the-box law was implemented. This statistic shows that ban-the-box laws can reduce repeat offending by helping ex-offenders obtain employment.
However, because data availability restricted the study to a single county, D’Alessio said the research should be expanded elsewhere to determine the true effectiveness of these laws.
Florida International University is recognized as a Carnegie engaged university. Its colleges and schools offer more than 180 bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral programs in fields such as engineering, international relations, architecture, law and medicine. As one of South Florida’s anchor institutions, FIU is Worlds Ahead in its local and global engagement, finding solutions to the most challenging problems of our time. FIU emphasizes research as a major component of its mission. FIU has awarded 200,000 degrees and enrolls 50,000 students in two campuses and three centers including FIU Downtown on Brickell and the Miami Beach Urban Studios. FIU is a member of Conference USA and has 400 student-athletes participating in 18 sports. For more information about FIU, visit http://www.fiu.edu/.