I don’t often agree with San Francisco, but do you suppose there is something to leveling the playing field for ex-cons? It seems that now, in addition to San Fran, there are others who want to do away with “the question” on every application: “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?”
So far, what I am seeing is that people are very, very divided on the issue, and the division seems to come from personal experience. Those who have been touched by the issue feel very strongly one way, and those who have not had any experience with this, feel just as strongly the other way.
I guess the bottom line is what we are willing to forgive and what we are not, and that is very personal to people. And yet, we say we are a society that believes that once people pay for their crime, mistake, sin, whatever you want to call it, they are free to rebuild their lives.
I think what we probably mean is that “they” are free to begin again as long as “we” do not have to be involved, and let’s fact it. We are all probably at least a little guilty of this, aren’t we?
So, let’s think for a minute. Just what can we live with? Let’s say a twenty-five year old man is convicted of a DWI and goes to prison for five years. That is a felony, and forever he will answer the question on every job application in the country with a YES.
Now, let’s say he learned his lesson, quit drinking, and is ready to go back into the workforce. Do you hire him? I think maybe you will because his is a problem that many understand and even accept and there will be many willing to take a chance on him.
Okay, let’s say we have the same young man with a meth addiction. Hmmmm…we know that it is really, really tough to kick the meth. We know that quite often people will steal to get their fix…
Or…maybe it wasn’t an addiction…the same young man steals a car, goes for a ride, and then rides right on into prison for the next ten years. While there, he grows up and is ready to reclaim his life. Should he have to answer the Have You Ever question, knowing it will cost him a decent job?
The list could go on and on, of course, but my question remains. Is it fair to make every applicant answer the Felony question on every application? Do these people deserve the chance this question denies them?
Is it possible that this very general question should be tailored to specifics?
And now…let’s bring it a little closer to home…lately we’ve had some of our own young people step up and admit they have had problems, problems that could put them exactly, spot-on in the middle of this page. So now, I want you to think again…just who does deserve a second chance?