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Expungement fair essential for workforce development

EDITORIAL

The Advocate-Messenger

An event this evening in Boyle County is helping make a big difference in the lives of many people. The free expungement fair from 5 to 8 p.m. at Danville Church of God makes it easier for those with a felony to clean their record, opening many doors that are unfortunately closed to them right now.

Importantly, businesses who will hire people with criminal records will also be at the event. We need more businesses like that.

No one should be excluded from consideration for a job just because they have a criminal record. It’s a short-sighted practice that hurts the individuals interested in working; hurts the employer’s ability to find good workers; and hurts the community as a whole because of the impacts to workforce development and quality of life.

Too many people are stuck in a vicious cycle because of one bad mistake from their past. They would make good workers today, but no one will hire them because of their past record. As a result, they wind up with ever-growing gaps on their resumes, making them even less likely to land other jobs.

These community members could be pulling their weight, getting paychecks and paying taxes. Instead, they wind up living in poverty and in need of government assistance. Some even turn back to the things that got them in trouble to begin with, because the rest of the world won’t accept them back.

Businesses ought to be proud to hire people who have turned their lives around. It should be a badge of honor to say that your business is helping people who needed a second chance — and helping the community develop its workforce at the same time. But there are still some businesses that advertise the fact they won’t hire anyone with a record, as if it’s a selling point.

Obviously, what crime was committed can matter, and certain jobs are just wrong for people with certain charges. But this expungement fair is necessary because the current culture has gone way beyond that reasonable position to a point where having any kind of record, regardless of the circumstances, precludes you from even being looked at for a job.

It’s ridiculous: If Jane Doe has the right experience, a demonstrated work ethic and a positive attitude, why would you want to turn her away over a piece of paper that says years ago, she messed up once?

Whether or not you have a felony in your past should be part of the conversation when a company is hiring someone new, but it shouldn’t happen until later in the conversation, and it should be focused on whether or not any conviction is relevant to the job at hand.

If we could open the eyes of every business owner to the harm done by anti-felon hiring practices, maybe expungement fairs wouldn’t be necessary anymore. But since we’re not there yet, we need events like this to help keep Boyle County and the entire region moving forward in a positive way.