Do former felons make good employees? New research says yes

New research shows that some former felons perform just as well as — if not better than — their colleagues, according to The Washington Post.

The research is part of a new paper by Jennifer Lundquist, PhD, Devah Pager, PhD, and PhD candidate Eiko Strader. They examined almost 1.3 million military enlistees from 2002 to 2009 and found termination rates were no higher for those with criminal records than those without. In addition, enlistees with felony backgrounds were actually promoted faster than their non-offender peers.

Why is this? The researchers argue it's due to the military's "whole person" screening process, which looks into each felon or criminal enlistee's background. The process considers the background of the crime and the enlistee's age at the time of the crime. It also asks for personal references and a qualitative interview, according to the report.

"Our main argument is that the 'whole person' criteria ... is something we think employers should explore as a possibility," said Dr. Lundquist, according to the report. "[Employers] may be losing out by just banning ex-felons altogether who turn out to be pretty good employees when given that chance — and when properly screened."

Some argue that the study's results are simply because the military's hierarchical system stops enlistees from misbehaving, or because enlistees are removed from their home and are less likely to commit crimes.

However, Dr. Lundquist debunks these beliefs, claiming "the military setting could do just the opposite," according to the report. Indeed, the hierarchical system could be troublesome for enlistees who have problems with authority, and the military's strict surveillance could likely give enlistees more chances of getting caught.

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