Brian Matthews, the Appriss Insights president, makes an important point about the labor economy in his home state of Kentucky.  In an op-ed in the Northern Kentucky Tribune, Matthews writes, that “the largely untapped talent pool of formerly incarcerated individuals could prove invaluable in filling the gaps in the labor shortage in the state.  This is true not just in Kentucky, but across the U.S. where there are much-discussed labor shortages and asymmetric employment issues.

CDIA supports second chances and many employers do, too. What we oppose, however, are attempts to blind employers to past criminal conduct.  Employers need both open minds and open eyes.  Matthews writes that even though “many business owners remain hesitant…about hiring individuals with criminal records” employer reviews show the value formerly incarcerated people can bring to the workplace.

But research shows that formerly incarcerated individuals behave as well, or even better, than their coworkers without a criminal record. A survey of managers found that 82% believe that the quality of hire for workers with criminal records is about the same or higher, while 67% of HR professionals felt the same. Researchers also found that those with a criminal record are more likely to stay in their jobs longer than those without one, which improves a company’s employee retention rates and cuts down on recruiting and training costs.

How can employers feel more comfortable in making safe hiring decisions?  There are many answers to this complicated issue, but some of them start with quality background checks and regular monitoring.  Also, governments can help incentivize employers by offering tax breaks, lowering liability barriers, providing certificates of rehabilitation, and more.  While Matthews does not make some of these points in his op-ed, his point about background checks is well-taken.

As Matthews notes in his closing, “we look toward the future and all that Kentucky can be, let’s give businesses the confidence to offer everyone a second chance.”  That applies not just in Kentucky, but across the country.