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The employment problems faced by those with a criminal past

When it comes to the rate of incarceration here in the U.S., the numbers are nothing short of staggering. Indeed, the nonprofit group Pew Charitable Trusts found that our nation had the highest rate of incarceration in the world back in 2008 with roughly 2.3 million people -- more than one in 100 adults -- behind bars.

What makes this number even more mindboggling is that it constitutes a 300 percent increase from 1980, when 500,000 people were incarcerated.

While much has been written about the reasons behind this explosion in the prison population -- more draconian sentencing laws, stringent correctional policies, etc. -- what sometimes goes overlooked are the collateral consequences or societal costs for what statistics show are the nearly 700,000 people released from prison each year.

For example, many of these people will find it exceedingly difficult to find a job upon their release from prison. Consider the following statistics:

  • The employment rate for people with a criminal past has fallen from 40 percent to 10 percent in the years since the recession.
  • The re-entry rate from Georgia prisons currently sits at 97 percent, yet over 1,300 people end up back behind bars every month without jobs.
  • The percentage of unemployed men between the ages of 25 to 54 who have criminal records sits at roughly 34 percent.

In light of discouraging figures like these, and the fact that employment and housing are seen as the two key ingredients for successful societal re-integration, the question remains as to what can be done to help those looking to start over.

Fortunately, some help may be on the horizon here in Georgia thanks to Governor Deal's executive order signed back in February, which mandated that those men and women seeking to secure a position with the state do not have to disclose a criminal conviction on an initial application, such that any questions about their criminal past would naturally arise during the course of an in-person interview.     

Here's hoping Georgia's move to "ban the box" ends up helping more people with a criminal past secure the employment they need to succeed.

If you have been arrested or charged with any sort of crime -- misdemeanor or felony -- consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible.

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