Research Report

Criminal Background Checks and Access to Jobs

Despite significant efforts by reform-minded government and nonprofits, roughly one in seven DC residents have criminal records that may preclude them from finding jobs. Local ban-the-box legislation, which allows employers to ask about an applicant's criminal record only after they have made a conditional job offer, has significant limitations, leading to background checks that disadvantage justice-involved people. What’s more, flaws in criminal background check practices result in inaccurate reports, which even prevent people with no convictions from gaining employment they otherwise qualify for. This study examines how background checks, regulations, and the local labor market limit the employment of justice-involved people in Washington, DC, then describes some promising practices under way to reduce those barriers.

This report was revised July 31, 2017, to correct an editorial error. On page 3, “For this report, we first estimate the number of people” was changed to “Those authors first estimate the number of people,” and “We then use summary statistics” was changed to “They then use summary statistics.” The subject of both sentences is Cognato and colleagues (2015), not the authors of this report. The report was subsequently revised November 15, 2017. An authors' note clarified a reference to data obtained from the National Inventory of Collateral Consequences of Conviction and the statements on local regulations that restrict access to jobs.