Hiring Someone Who Has Done Time Behind Bars

Whether it was by accident or a tragic mistake on one’s part, an individual spent some time behind bars and now they’re in need of a job. Are their chances of finding employment good, bad or ugly? More importantly, what are the chances you as a small business owner will hire them?

This scenario actually occurs more often than individuals realize, so small business owners need to hire with caution.

Small business owners, especially those who may show a kind heart and have not dealt with this situation before, need to be sure the employee they bring in from the secretary to a management member has a clean record or has demonstrated clear improvement returning to society since their time behind bars.

If you’re hiring, understand the potential negative ramifications of bringing on an individual with a criminal record. Such actions have the potential to lead to company theft, workplace safety matters, and more.

In order to best negate those issues and practice due diligence, business owners should do their necessary background checks before hiring.

First, while companies are certainly entitled to check up on potential hires, know the rules prior to considering someone.

U.S. businesses typically are prohibited from disqualifying an individual based simply on an arrest or for that matter a conviction. Typically, applications will ask the individual if they have ever been arrested or convicted of a crime, with a disclaimer noting a “yes” answer might not automatically disqualify them from a job. The key here from the business owner’s standpoint is to be sure they do not unlawfully discriminate against the applicant.

Secondly, in the event someone has committed a crime and done jail time in their past, determine how that crime may impact their potential role with your company. For example, someone who spent time in jail for stealing money would not be a good choice to handle your accounting matters.

The best way to head off potential problems is doing a full criminal background check (the best possible to your abilities regarding time and money).

In order to best do that, first make sure each applicant signs a consent form to a background check, including one for criminal records. You can also word articles that include future background checks for retention and promotion unless revoked via writing.

One key piece of information is obtaining details on where an individual lived for the last 5 to 8 years. This will help you determine that the applicant has not done any recent jail time, i.e. there are no major gaps in where they resided during this time.

If you’re looking to give an individual a second chance, your heart is in the right place; make sure your mind is too.

So, have you ever hired someone who did jail time or contemplated doing so?

Photo credit: eb2bconference.com

Editor’s note: If you are interested in learning how background checks can be beneficial to your business, fill out the form to compare background check price quotes and get a free background checks price guide.


Dave Thomas writes about a variety of small business topics providing helpful hints and tips to help grow a business. Dave’s background is in business insurance and telecommunications and has a passion for social media and sports.

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5 Responses to Hiring Someone Who Has Done Time Behind Bars

  1. There should be not problem in hiring a person who had the misfortune of spending some time behind the bars. In many cases, innocents are put in jail while the rogues with money & power get away.

  2. chuck says:

    I would think if the person is not a “habitual” offender then I would take a look at him to hire. He of course would have to have the skills like anyone else I would look at to hire. Or if I thought he might be easy to train I would maybe look at that too

    • Business.com says:

      @chuck thanks for comment and you are right, you definitely need to make sure that you can train the person or that they already have relevant experience. Just as you always would when hiring.

  3. LMJ1 says:

    It should not be a problem at all if the recruiting person after discussion is convinced that the matter was such that it does not bring fear of repetition.
    I feel, i would love to have such people as they shall be more hardworking and good for the business,

  4. My father hired several over the years. Had no problem with most. Only one took advantage and that was after years of earning my dad’s trust and even took family vacations together.

    The breech of trust hurt far worse than the missing money.

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