The New York Times recently published an article with a title similar to (but far more extreme than) that of this blog post: He Committed A Murder. Then He Graduated From an Elite Law School. Would You Hire Him as Your Attorney? That particular question is moot because no bar association will admit a murderer as a member, but the question of society’s willingness to afford criminals second chances in the workplace has stuck with me.
In New York City, The Doe Fund was founded to provide homeless men with a paying job and professional training, and many graduates of its Ready, Willing & Able program are convicted criminals. Ben & Jerry’s has long been a leader in employing convicted criminals, particularly through its partnership with Greyston Bakery. And an initiative called Ban the Box, which places restrictions on employers asking a candidate about his or her criminal record, is sweeping across the nation; the U.S. government “banned the box” for federal government jobs in 2015.
The issue is larger than you may think. More than 70 million Americans have criminal records, 20 million of whom have been convicted of felonies. That’s 21% and 6% of the population, respectively, with minorities (African Americans and Hispanics in particular) disproportionally represented. So, it is very much a consideration when building diverse and inclusive teams. And lest you think the issue isn’t applicable to the SaaS industry, I can assure you through personal experience that it is, having interviewed or employed at least two people with criminal records.
This is an unusual blog post for me in that it lacks a recommendation or framework that you can apply to your own work. And I think that’s okay. I value learning about how people I respect think about situations they encounter and knowledge they gain, and hope my readers feel the same way. I’ll return to my regularly scheduled programming next week.
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