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Myths & Facts

Myths & Facts

Each year, more than 700,000 men and women are released from prisons, and when we encourage these individuals and adjudicated youth to take advantage of services that help them become viable and successful in the workplace, everyone in the community benefits.

One of the greatest challenges for many employers is trying to sort through myths and facts about these returnees. Below are several of the more common myths that have been highlighted and addressed.

Get started by visiting on the following topics.

Life Experience

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MYTH: Formerly-incarcerated individuals and adjudicated youth are a high risk because of the crimes they have committed.

Fact: They may not be a higher risk than the average employee. Many employers who have hired formerly-incarcerated men, women, and adjudicated youth have said that these individuals often make exceptionally reliable, loyal, and trustworthy candidates and employees.

MYTH: People with criminal records are automatically barred from employment.

Fact: An arrest or conviction record will NOT automatically bar individuals from employment. It depends on the nature of the work, characteristics and seriousness of the offense, and the length of time since it occurred. Likewise, since an arrest alone does not necessarily mean that someone has committed a crime, an employer should not assume that someone who has been arrested, but not convicted, did in fact commit the offense. Instead, the employer should allow the person to explain the circumstances of the arrest. If it appears that he or she engaged in the alleged unlawful conduct, the employer should assess whether the conduct is closely enough related to the job to justify denial of employment (Federal Interagency Reentry Council, Re-entry MythBusters).

Soft Skills

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MYTH: Many employers believe that ex-offenders do not want to work.

Fact: There are many men and women who really want to work including those who may have been previously incarcerated. For example, the owner of a large East Coast heavy vehicle wash facility stated that his experience working with ex-offenders has been nothing but phenomenal. Approximately 92 percent of his workforce has criminal backgrounds. Affirmed owner Matthew Hitt, “We had an employee who…would spend 4 hours getting here because he was so worried about missing his start time. When you see that kind of willingness that you really don’t see in the rest of society today, it’s kind of hard to say that it’s not working out” (Pastforwardmd.org).” That’s dedication and commitment to employment!

MYTH: Individuals with past criminal involvement are unreliable and lack discipline, a solid work ethic, and communication skills.

Fact: Many individuals who have previously been involved in our system of justice want to prove that they can be successful in the workplace. Like other employees, they are loyal and conscientious. Affirmed Pamela Paulk, the Johns Hopkins Health System’s Vice-President of Human Resources, “[We have] a long and happy history of hiring ex-offenders. [They are] good, loyal, solid workers, and I have the numbers to prove it. I pulled a sample, randomly of 80 of the people who had been hired with positive criminal backgrounds from the year 2000. Of the 80 that we looked at, 73 of them still work at Hopkins today. That is a better retention rate than the average hire (Pastforwardmd.org).”

In terms of communication skills, many justice-involved men, women, and youth have received training on how to communicate better and as a result, have created emotional and communication support systems that make them effective in the workplace.

MYTH: Other employees will not want to work with justice-involved individuals.

Fact: As you do with other employees, there is no need for your workforce other than line managers to know of an employee's past. You will be surprised how quickly individuals with past criminal involvement will fit in, given the opportunity .

MYTH: The existence of criminal convictions is an indication of being untrustworthy.

Fact: Many people assume that individuals who have been incarcerated have a basic character flaw that is not found in the "normal" population. In the vast majority of cases, these are "normal" people who have made a mistake and are ready to put it behind them. In fact, When is it Safe to Hire Someone With a Criminal Record? New Carnegie Mellon Study Provides Empirical Basis for Employers To Use in Assessment of Prior Criminal Records indicates that after five years of no new arrests (the report called this “staying clean”), a person with a criminal record posed no greater risk to an employer than other candidates of the same age who had never been arrested.

Occupational Training

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MYTH: Ex-offenders lack the education and job development skills that are needed in today’s workplace.

Fact: Many prisons and jails offer vocational training in labor-market demand industries that make individuals with criminal records extremely competitive candidates. Check out from Prison-to-Productivity on this website to learn about these options.

MYTH: People who have been incarcerated need more assistance than I can provide in order to make a smooth transition to the workplace.

Fact: Once individuals have paid their debt to society, they can take advantage of apprenticeships, mentoring, job and soft skills training, and certificate training programs. These opportunities are available through initiatives funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, Department of Education, and the Department of Justice’s grant programs. There are also numerous training and employment organizations in communities around the country that are geared and ready to help these men, women, and youth become productive law-abiding citizens.

Workplace Advantages

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MYTH: Employers have no Federal income tax advantage by hiring individuals with past criminal involvement.

Fact: Employers can save money on their Federal income taxes in the form of a tax credit incentive through the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) program. You can hire individuals who have been convicted of a felony under any statute of the United States or any State, who has a hiring date which is within one year from the date of conviction or release from prison ( Federal Interagency Reentry Council, Re-entry MythBusters ). Did you know that you could save significant tax dollars by taking advantage of this program? One employer notes that he saved almost $8500 a year per employee in tax credits. Multiply that by hiring more than one of these individuals and you could end up with substantial savings (Passforwardmd.org). Visit the FAQs on this website to learn more about how you can take advantage of the WOTC, and Get Set to view the forms needed to activate this incentive.

MYTH: Businesses and employers have no way to protect themselves from potential property and monetary losses should an individual they hire prove to be dishonest.

Fact: Through the Federal Bonding Program (FBP), funded and administered by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), fidelity insurance bonds are available to indemnify employers for loss of money or property sustained through the dishonest acts of their employees (i.e., theft, forgery, larceny, and embezzlement). Employers receive bonded employees free-of-charge which serves as an incentive to hire hard-to-place job applicants. This tool has proven to be extremely successful with only 1 percent of the bonds ever issued resulting in a claim ( Federal Interagency Reentry Council, Re-entry MythBusters ). Check out the FAQs to learn how you can take advantage of this excellent program.