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Who Works for Prisons? Who Do Prisons Work for?

Should your university or company have the right to ask about someone's prior convictions in their admission or job application?

What others said

BackShape the Debate

Kevin R Kelly

Decency, integrity, honesty, morals, and respect for authority and the law - those things all matter and contribute to the functioning of a structured Society. When it comes to hiring someone, I believe an employer should be able to discriminate for almost any reason at all, including gender, religion, height, looks,weight, race, citizenship, sexual orientation... as an employer, I should be allowed to put my team together to make my business the best that it can be (according to me). This is done under the current rules but now it requires lying, finagling, and smoke blowing by human resources administrators.

12:12 PM | December 18, 2018


Never. Post incarceration, the most extreme form of punishment, your debt to society should be fully paid.

8:08 AM | November 25, 2018


Unless there's a concern of human safety (such as working with vulnerable populations), a criminal record doesn't affect a person's ability to perform their duties.

10:22 PM | September 30, 2018

Heather M Kegler

I think it is prudent for an employer to know whether a potential employee has open criminal cases, BUT once their case is closed (no active warrants, probation, parole, etc...:ie, they've repaid their debt to society or successfully completed their sentence) it is irrelevant and shouldn't be a factor, regardless what the crime was.

5:17 PM | August 30, 2018

Ian Smith

It's an important part of people's past that institutions have a right to know about before engaging with an individual

1:13 PM | February 8, 2018


Because it is none of their business

4:16 PM | February 5, 2018

Carolyn W Herz

It prevents ex-prisoners from re-entering society.

2:14 PM | May 14, 2017


I think companies have the right to verify that an employee, not candidate, is suitable for the position. And, that includes background verification appropriate for position. Universities have a responsibility to protect all students, faculty, and staff from predators and violent persons. I do not think that inquiring at the application level can be fairly done.

6:18 PM | March 25, 2017

Jennifer Anderson

It is important to know if someone has be in prison. It shouldn't be held against them but it also shouldn't be hidden.

2:14 PM | February 14, 2017


This answer is very complicated and could be an essay, but essentially the existence of the modern prison system is rooted in the subjugation and exploitation of Black bodies, Native bodies, and immigrant bodies, and therefore overwhelmingly disproportionately incarcerates people of color, most often for acts of survival within a broken and horrible system that white supremacy put them in. By having the right to ask about someone's prior convictions continues the legacy of the US depriving equal education and employment from people who aren't white, which is essentially the goal of the prison system and allows for subsequent attack on people of color by saying "they're uneducated" (but making it a racial-biological statement) and "lazy/welfare-queen" (myth created by the Reagan administration to increase public sentiment that Black people were exploiting their tax-dollars and thereby have far more public support when passing legislation that would negatively impact Black communities).

4:16 PM | December 2, 2016