ACLU Makes the Case for Giving Formerly Incarcerated a Fair Chance at Employment


One in 3 American adults—70 million in total—have a criminal record, making it difficult for them to re-enter their communities, find gainful employment, build stability and find success after incarceration. A report from the American Civil Liberties Union highlights the benefit to all that comes when companies give such individuals a second chance.


Back to Business: How Hiring Formerly Incarcerated Job Seekers Benefits Your Company” was put together by the ACLU’s Trone Center for Justice and Equality, and it details the ways companies can “combat the ills of decades of mass incarceration, while at the same time tapping into the potential energy of a workforce of millions.”

The report says that companies who give second chances can “have a positive impact on the lives of individuals, the trajectory of families, on the health of their businesses, and on the growth of the American economy,” with the bottom line being: “Doing good is good for business.”

Koch Industries, Total Wine & More, Walmart, and advocacy and community-based organizations working in re-entry all provided input for the report that shows higher loyalty, lower turnover, and reduced training and recruitment costs make formerly incarcerated job seekers an appealing prospect for employers. For Total Wine & More, turnover rates are at least 12 percent lower for employees with criminal records.

“Giving formerly incarcerated applicants a fair chance is a win-win. It’s a good deal for the economy, for communities suffering under mass incarceration, and a good deal for businesses looking for a competent, effective and loyal workforce,” Jeffery Robinson, director of the Trone Center for Justice and Equality at the ACLU, said. “The business community can lead the way in shaping policy to allow Americans to leave incarceration behind and live as upstanding community members.”

“We banned the box on employment forms at Total Wine & More because it was the right thing to do, and it’s been a great thing for the company. Returning citizens appreciate having a second chance and work hard to make the most of it,” David Trone, owner of Total Wine & More, said. “We’ve always had a very low turnover rate, and the retention rate with returning citizens is even higher than with other employees. Lower turnover leads to better customer service and increased loyalty, two keys to success in retail. I’m excited to share our experience with other business leaders.”

The report stresses the importance of creating mobility, and not just entry-level jobs, by opening pathways to education in the correctional setting and alongside employment.


Read the full report at the ACLU.



At the very least, we need to “ban the box” for any charges that don’t lead to a conviction, guilty plea, or a Nolo Contendere plea. Charges, WITHOUT A CONVICTION, show up on background checks.

This has a few impacts:
1. Discourages protest. If you can be arrested for being at the wrong place at the wrong time during a march, and that stays on your record, it chills protest. How many times have we heard about situation where the police charges protesters with something that will never get a conviction and they ultimately drop the charges. That stays on your record as an arrest.

2. Inordinately impacts POC. Even without a conviction, increased interactions with police, police “overcharging” POC, skew the likelihood that these will show/remain up on their records.