Should retailers hire more ex-cons?
With unemployment rates at or near historic lows, retailers sometimes look in different places to find good workers. According to a recent piece from Bloomberg, restaurant operators such as MOD Pizza, McDonald’s and Firehouse Subs are hiring ex-criminals in order to fill the worker gap.
The website, 70 Million Jobs, is a job board that helps those with criminal records get hired. The site says they look for those who have been out of prison awhile and able to stay out of further trouble. Low-level drug offenders are eligible; those convicted of more serious crimes typically aren’t. There seem to be other websites offering the same service and it appears that many mainstream retailers are now hiring former convicts.
A Fast Company piece says that 60 to 75 percent of those released from incarceration remain unemployed a year after their release. But, according to a poll cited in the same article, 78 percent of Americans are comfortable buying goods/services from a company that hires ex-cons.
Vikrant Reddy, a senior research fellow at CKI, a nonprofit libertarian research group, told Fast Company that consumers are comfortable interacting with people who have been incarcerated and it doesn’t factor into their decision whether to visit a retailer. Yet, in the same poll, only 31 percent of those surveyed are okay doing business with someone who served time for a violent offense.
A MOD Pizza spokesman told Bloomberg that ex-felons tend to stick around, and some get promoted through the organization. For ex-cons, decent jobs can provide stability and a reason to get out of bed, stay straight, etc. Firms hiring former criminals get labor they desperately need and, perhaps, some goodwill benefits, as well. Some hiring managers say ex-criminals are great employees because they appreciate being given a second chance.
Firehouse Subs attends hiring events for ex-offenders and has a three-year agreement with the Florida Department of Corrections to consider convicted felons for vacant positions. With around two million Americans behind bars and well over four million on probation or parole, there is a large pool of potential labor. A public policy professor at Georgetown University told Bloomberg that it is important for society to try to get ex-cons into the workforce.
- Ex-Cons Find Second Chances Easier to Get in Tight Labor Market – Bloomberg
- What’s holding companies back from hiring people with criminal records? – Fast Company
- 70 Million Jobs
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Should retailers hire ex-cons? If so, where do you draw the line at acceptable vs. unacceptable offenses?