Will restricting criminal background checks actually increase minority unemployment?

Since African Americans and Latinos have higher arrest and conviction rates than whites, criminal background checks unfairly inhibit those protected classes’ job prospects.


Washington state prisons Lt. Clan Jacobs walks through a block of cells at the Washington Corrections Center in Shelton, Wash. in this Feb. 2005 file photo.

Actions with the best intentions do not always result in the expected outcomes.

Currently, in an effort to lower minority unemployment and reduce discrimination, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is considering restricting or, in the most extreme case, eliminating the ability of employers to consider criminal background checks in hiring.

The commission has held two hearings on the matter with little fanfare, but great support from watchdog groups which argue that since African Americans and Latinos have higher arrest and conviction rates than whites, criminal background checks unfairly inhibit those protected classes’ job prospects.

Advocates for keeping the criminal background check guidelines in their current form have noted that the hearings the commission has held have leaned in favor of restricting employers’ use of background checks — as a way to increase employment in sections of the population hit hardest by the economic downturn.

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