More Southern States Seek to Re-Balance the Impact of a Criminal Record

By Michael Klazema on 6/6/2019

How common is it to have a criminal record? You're more likely to encounter an individual with a rap sheet than you might think. As noted by online publication Facing South, the US jails people at one of the highest rates in the world, and nearly one-third of the adult population may have a record. The result, especially in southern states, is a large group of people who often face challenges with reintegrating to society, finding work, and securing housing.

Seeking to stem the tide of recidivism and improve prospects for those who've been through the criminal justice system, states across the South have begun to adopt piecemeal policies aimed at removing some of the barriers that advocates believe can hold back an individual with a criminal record. 

In some cases, this is as simple as removing an expensive fee on applications for expungement (a recent development in Tennessee). In other states, such as North Carolina, the concept of record expungement after a reasonable period has grown in popularity. Expunged records do not appear on background checks—in fact, applicants can often legally not disclose that portion of their past, opening new pathways to employment. 

More complex efforts include the growth of the "ban the box" movement, which prohibits businesses from including questions about prior criminal acts on job applications. These rules often delay an employer's use of third-party verification of an applicant's information, such as through a US OneSEARCH report by

With the claim that learning about a criminal past too early can prejudice an employer against an applicant, ban the box advocates have made strong pushes for the law across the country for years. As a result, more than two-thirds of all states now have some form of ban the box law, often requiring employers to make a job offer to applicants before they can perform a criminal background check.

These changes aren't confined to any one state or political party; in fact, efforts to lessen the long-term impact of a criminal record persist on both sides of the aisle. Advocates believe that these changes represent fresh opportunities for individuals with criminal backgrounds. Some states, such as Florida and Virginia, have even taken steps to restore voting rights to felons.

As attitudes surrounding criminal records change and laws shift to respond, businesses must be even more vigilant about compliance. Not only is confirming an individual's trustworthiness paramount, but there are still job roles for which background checks remain a requirement because the law bars applicants with convictions. can assist by supply both the tools for conducting compliant background checks and the knowledge to use them correctly. With this valuable help, striking the right balance between fairness and safety becomes much simpler for any employer.

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