My Name is Jenni…and I Have a Criminal Record




Yep, you read that right.  In fact, 1 of 3 adults (of 75 million Americans) have a criminal record.  Before you Google me and try to figure out the story, and in the spirit of keeping it “real” let me share.

One chilly evening in February of 2005, I went out for drinks with friends.  I pulled out of a local pub, turned into the middle lane, and neglected to signal before moving into the right lane.  That “improper lane change” was all that was needed for the police officer who pulled out behind me to have probable cause to stop me.  I was pulled over, given a road sobriety test, and I submitted to a breathalyzer test.  The rest as they say is history…or is it?

At the time of my arrest, and eventual misdemeanor conviction of Driving Under the Influence, I was a professional recruiter at a large organization, a single Mother of two, and had recently started back to school to get my degree.  All of that would soon come into jeopardy, from that single mistake.

During the next six years, until I eventually found my home with HR Shield, I’d submitted my application for dozens of positions, dreading that question “Have you ever been arrested or convicted of a crime?”  For those roles that didn’t ask up front, I’d go in, and have a fantastic interview, walk out of the place thinking I’d nailed it, and surely, I’d get a job offer.  And I did, several in fact, until they’d completed my background check, and then I was told they’d found someone “more suitable” or who “better fit the culture.” 

Here I am, nearly 15 years later, and still that DUI lurks in a dark corner waiting to be brought to light.  I understand that a background check is important, but it’s important that you realize, not every person with a criminal record is a career criminal. 

Companies are understandably concerned about the safety of their workers and customers as well as their own assets and public image. But today, the best approach to hiring individuals with criminal backgrounds is to evaluate each candidate on his or her merits.  Give candidates with criminal backgrounds a chance to be included in the selection process, carefully assess the nature of their crimes and the time since conviction against the requirements of the job and balancing overall risks against potential rewards.

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, president and chief executive officer of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) said “The employment of people with criminal records is an issue workplaces should be talking about. I encourage HR professionals to lead conversations about inclusive hiring at their organizations so other executives can make informed, sensible and beneficial hiring decisions.”

So what can you do?  Start by taking the pledge.  Nearly 700,000 people are released from prison each year and are locked out of the job market. Those who have served their time should not be “re-sentenced” by employers, especially when businesses are experiencing a human capital crisis.  Join business leaders & pledge to consider all qualified candidates…candidates like me.




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