Widening the Employment Pool

There is a new bill in South Carolina that may help people who have a past criminal record get a job. Finding steady work and therefore enabling a stable home life is essential to help this population stay out of prison and is a significant factor in lowering recidivism rates. The bill, which is now in the Senate after being approved by the House last year, allows former inmates to take some nonviolent felonies off their records.

Having a criminal record often impedes a person’s ability to seek and keep gainful employment. There is a huge stigma that surrounds ex-offenders and most of these people are still unemployed a year after rejoining society, according to the National Institute of Justice. By helping these workers clean up their record, these employees become more attractive to potential employers and have an easier time getting hired. There will also be a larger pool of potential employees for companies to hire from. Especially important both to helping ex-offenders create a new life and to helping the state economically are jobs that pay above minimum wage. South Carolina experienced a worker shortage in the last few years and this can affect the state’s economic well-being. Letting more workers into the employable pool of hirable workers is a win-win.

Researchers at Clemson University and Rutgers University analyzed six million criminal offenders who left prison in the years between 2000-2014 and were incarcerated for either drug-related or property-related crimes. Their findings based on this research were that the recidivism rate decreased one percent for every dollar that the minimum wage increased in the areas where these offenders lived.

The question now is which felonies should qualify to be expunged. Real employment results in a more stable and safer community. “Ex-offenders in South Carolina are potential employees who would have a more stable life and successful future if they are able to receive gainful employment that pays above minimum wage, and therefore, will be less likely to commit a crime that returns them to prison.” said Dayne Phillips, a South Carolina federal criminal defense lawyer with Price Benowitz LLP. “These people have paid for their crime and deserve a second chance for life in their communities.”

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