Workers who have been arrested or convicted are less likely to be employed by the federal government than people without prior arrests or convictions, but the Biden administration says it’s trying to change that.
The U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Tuesday released two reports analyzing how many people with arrest or criminal conviction records are employed by the federal government and how to improve hiring efforts. The reports are part of a larger multi-year initiative by the federal government to study and improve diversity, equity and inclusion.
Individuals who had previously been incarcerated were about half as likely to have federal jobs than those without records, according to the first report, Second Chances Part I: Federal Employment for Workers With Past Arrests or Convictions, which analyzed 14 years of data. That means there were roughly 300,000 fewer people with histories of arrest or convictions employed by the federal government than expected, per the report.
EEOC said there isn’t data to explain the shortfall but suggested it could be the result of hiring managers not choosing applicants with records or due to assumptions by those with records that they aren’t eligible for federal government jobs who then self-select out of applying.
“It is our hope that the information contained in these reports will assist federal agencies in understanding long-standing challenges that the persons with arrests and convictions face when trying to obtain life-changing employment,” said Dexter Brooks, associate director of EEOC’s Office of Federal Operations, which produced the reports. “As the nation’s largest employer, the federal government is uniquely positioned to demonstrate how to improve opportunities for this underserved community.”
The second report, Second Chances Part II: History of Criminal Conduct and Suitability for Federal Employment, looked into what kind of outcomes candidates had after background checks identified criminal conduct issues.
Between fiscal year 2018 and fiscal year 2020, 22.3% of suitability investigations for federal civil service roles found criminal conduct issues. Of those, 76% of determinations were favorable, meaning the candidate was cleared to work for the government, and 2% were unfavorable, meaning the worker either was removed from consideration or from a position if they had already started.
“Persons with arrest and conviction records who have rehabilitated and present a low risk for recidivism need opportunities for stable employment,” Brooks said. “Employment in the federal government may help address some of the barriers these individuals face and ease their reintegration into society.”