Applicants With Criminal Records Face Greater Employment Challenges

With the economy still reeling from the recession, unemployment remains high in South Carolina and around the country. In July 2012, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a national unemployment rate of 8.3 percent, with an even higher rate of 9.6 percent unemployment in South Carolina. In these difficult economic times, finding work in South Carolina can be difficult for anyone - and for many people who have been convicted of certain criminal offenses, the task has become nearly impossible.

A recent Fox News report examined the issue of seeking work in South Carolina after a prior criminal conviction. The report included interviews with job seekers, policymakers and employers about the difficulties faced by people looking for work after a criminal conviction in South Carolina, as well as what is being done to address the issue.

One job seeker quoted in the article has been seeking work for more than a year. The woman was convicted of a felony criminal conspiracy charge in 2008 after she was found in a vehicle with another individual who was arrested on drug charges. Although her own offense was nonviolent and was not drug-related, she says she is turned down for multiple jobs per day. Even when she is granted an interview, she says potential employers routinely say they won't hire her because of her felony conviction.

This woman's story is repeated many times among the approximately 40,000 former offenders in South Carolina who have served their debts to society and are attempting to re-enter the workforce. Although research has shown that gainful employment is an important factor in preventing recidivism among former offenders, many employers are simply unwilling to hire applicants with criminal records.

One South Carolina legislator, Sen. Darrell Jackson, has sponsored legislation that would give nonviolent offenders the chance to clear their records by going before the pardon and parole board. The measure was defeated at the subcommittee level this year, but Jackson says he plans to reintroduce the proposal next year.

Particularly in today's difficult economy, when jobs are scarce and competition is fierce, the long-term consequences of a criminal conviction can extend far beyond the courtroom and the jailhouse. People facing the possibility of criminal charges in South Carolina are encouraged to seek help from an experienced criminal defense attorney who will work hard to defend their rights and protect their futures.