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Criminal Record Discrimination

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Millions of people around the world have experienced forms of discrimination or racism. One of the most influential types of discrimination is criminal record discrimination. Each year, thousands of people are denied employment based on past criminal activity. Usually, these people have only committed small acts of improbity, such as minor shoplifting. Despite the fact that they have tried to change their ways, many employers remain obstinate towards these people.


What exactly is criminal record discrimination? Criminal record discrimination (also known as criminal conviction discrimination) is the unjust treatment of people who have participated in unlawful actions in the past but have made an effort to alter their behavior into more acceptable ways. According to Jusita, a well-known law database, “Many employers believe that once a person has been convicted of a crime, that person will always be unreliable. Even employers involved in low-risk industries (such as fast food, retailing, and service providers) tend to not hire applicants with criminal records.” Various wealthier countries, such as Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom have passed legislative acts that preclude any type of discrimination solely based on criminal records. However, laws are capable of being broken so regulations like these cannot guarantee full protection against being discriminated against.


Criminal discernment occurs on a global scale. If one named a place anywhere in the world, there is a strong likelihood that quite a few individuals located in that area have experienced criminal discrimination. However, some countries have more cases of reported criminal discrimination situations than other countries. Some of the top nations with a high rate of criminal discernment occur in European countries. In a study published by the Sociological Science Journal, 200,000 applicants were monitored in nine countries in Europe and North America. After performing a detailed analysis of the collected data, they stated,” France has the highest discrimination rates, followed by Sweden. We find similar differences among Great Britain, Canada, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, and Germany.” Evidently, criminal discrimination is more prevalent in European countries.


Employers are expecting to find people with advanced education and high marks in their intended major, but most importantly, someone that is reliable. According to an article titled Disparate Impact and Employer’s Over-Reliance on Criminal Background Checks by Johnathan J. Smith, Ayanna Spike (an alumna) was rejected by over a dozen employers after she graduated from college in England. Although impressed by her training in medical administration and years of education, the employers were unwilling to give her the offer because of her conviction for robbery in 1997. Even though she had not been subsequently convicted for other crimes and had served her prison sentence, Spike found it harder to maintain a steady life outside of jail because her criminal record impeded her from getting work.

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Another example can be found in an article titled Employee with Criminal History Settles Employment Discrimination Case. Mr. Kitchens, a father of three children, who worked as a data specialist for almost two years in France, was terminated because his manager found out that he had a drug charge from more than five years before. Mr. Kitchens shared his experience by saying, “I paid my debt to society for a previous mistake and I did everything the right way. I got my affairs in order, started school, and got a steady job. I started at the lowest possible position and worked hard, earned promotions, and got great recommendations from company executives. But at the end of the day, all of that didn’t matter, and it was really unfair that I was let go because of my past record.”Clearly, criminal record discrimination has impacted people like Mr. Kitchens, as well as other people’s livelihoods unfairly.

According to an article titled “Out of Prison & Out of Work, Unemployment Among Formerly Incarcerated People,” it states that the unemployment rate for formerly imprisoned people is nearly five times higher than the unemployment rate for the general public in the US. Surprisingly, the unemployment rate is even higher than the rates in the years of the Great Depression!

Studies show that within the first two years or so after being released from jail was the highest rate of unemployment with a percentage of 31.6%. After two to three years, the percentage lowered to 21.1%. People who had been released for more than 4 years had the lowest rate, which was 13.6 %. Despite the fact that this may seem low, it’s actually not much lower than the unemployment rate during the Great Depression. These statistics show that people who were just released from prison face a high rate of unemployment. It also shows that people who are in desperate need of a job are denied employment right when they needed it the most.


Unfortunately, discrimination based on criminal records has always been around. However, we do see a significantly large increase in criminal discrimination between the time intervals of 1800 and 1900 and an even larger increase between 1940 and 1980. Many people are convinced that the reason for this is because the time period was known as The Segregation Era, commonly referred to as the discrimination era. As we know, racism against blacks was the topic of the time. Surprisingly, criminal record discrimination and racism against blacks actually go hand in hand. When crimes were committed at the time, most whites instinctively were convinced that the culprits were African Americans. This later led to the blacks not being able to find jobs in the future due to whites discriminating against their criminal records. Around this time, people of other races were also starting to get subjected based upon past criminal activity. Essentially, the era of segregation against blacks proved to be a stepping stone in criminal discernment, not only towards blacks but to other races as well.


With over nine million individuals being released from prison each year, this huge population has struggled to find jobs and reintegrate into society. The effect of criminal records plays a major part in influencing these individual’s chances of getting a job. Fortunately, efforts have been made in order to help people who have been faced with criminal discrimination. If these efforts continue, criminal discrimination may not be as big a problem in the future as it is today.

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Criminal Record Discrimination. (2022, Jun 16). Edubirdie. Retrieved January 30, 2023, from
“Criminal Record Discrimination.” Edubirdie, 16 Jun. 2022,
Criminal Record Discrimination. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 30 Jan. 2023].
Criminal Record Discrimination [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jun 16 [cited 2023 Jan 30]. Available from:
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