Mississippi Prison Hires a Finance Officer Once Convicted of Embezzlement

By Michael Klazema on 12/26/2014

In most cases, background checks are geared to specifically highlight crimes and other past offenses that would make an individual unfit to perform a particular job. For instance, a job that puts an individual in a position of responsibility for handling money might include a credit check to discover if the person applying for that job had any money struggles of their own. That check would also look for charges of embezzlement, and if found, those charges would likely result in the end of employment consideration for the applicant in question. That's because, in finance, an employee with a known history of embezzlement is nearly unthinkable. Employers just aren't willing to take that kind of risk.

But what about when the employee in question has received an official pardon from a state governor? Such was the case for a woman in Mississippi, who is now serving as the Finance Manager for a privately owned and operated prison in the state. The woman was convicted of embezzlement in 2002. She didn't do any jail time for her crime, but she did serve 60 months of probation. She was ultimately given a full and official pardon from a former State Governor, just as he was leaving office.

The pardon worked just as expungement would have, which means that no criminal record remains on file for the woman in question. Evidently, the hiring body at the correctional facility still knew about her criminal history. However, in light of the pardon, they felt that they could not fairly deny the woman employment. Thus, she was given a job as the prison's main financial officer, despite having committed the one crime that would have quickly disqualified her from consideration without a pardon from a politician.

This case raises a few questions and discussion points. First of all, it's worth noting that the East Mississippi Correctional Facility did the legally and ethically correct thing here. An expungement or pardon leaves a person technically innocent of the crimes for which they have been convicted in the past. In turn, this means that an employer cannot use information about those crimes to deny employment. Employers of all stripes would do well to remember this fact.

Another question is whether or not politicians” particularly ones leaving office, should be allowed to grant legal pardons of this magnitude. The woman in this case was convicted of a serious crime only 12 years ago. When she was pardoned, her conviction was less than 10 years old. While she evidently hasn't had any repeat offenses since, she also probably hasn't had an opportunity to commit such a crime anyway.

The governor in question pardoned 203 different individuals at the end of his term, including several convicted of rape and murder. He was criticized for those pardons, and some wondered if he had been paid off or otherwise compensated for providing them. Should a governor really have that kind of power to impact what employers can learn or take into consideration about their applicants?


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