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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

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

Andy Post

We are not solely defined by our past selves. If they have served their punishment, they should be re-integrated back into society.

3:15 PM | November 28, 2016

Sheena Beasley

It will influence the decision to halt someone's education or deny the opportunity to provide for their families or live a productive life.

10:10 AM | November 3, 2016

Sylvia Gale

This is a huge barrier to re-entry. If we believe in rehabilitation, we need to give people the chance to start again, truly.

12:12 PM | October 12, 2016

Aliosha Bielenberg

Employers should be able to ask anything they want if they allow people to opt out of answering a question.

12:12 PM | September 15, 2016