THE BLOG
05/27/2016 12:07 pm ET Updated May 27, 2017

Trump Is Usually Wrong But He's Right on This One

Justice reform platforms have been a little rickety in the 2016 presidential race. Bernie Sanders wants to ban private prison contracts with the federal government. Hillary Clinton said she wants to ban the box - the checkbox that asks if a job applicant has been convicted of a felony.

And the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, is pro-incarceration, but he has publicly copped to hiring at least three people with criminal records: a press person for his ground game in Alaska just last week, a campaign advisor who stole $750,000 from former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's campaign and an alleged former mobster who worked for the Trump Organization years ago.

Trump always gets press but the fact that he's hired three people who've done time shouldn't be as newsy as it is. We make hiring people convicted of felonies a bigger deal than it should be.

While there are many reasons why employing people with records is good for them and for the economy, people who oppose felon hiring have yet to explain why hiring them it's so bad, so risky, or why Trump's felon hat trick deserves mention at all, much less headlines.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics keeps numbers on workplace violence and violence against government employees. The agency has been analyzing these statistics for at least 22 years.

Considering how skittish people are about hiring someone who's been convicted of a felony, I would expect that the Bureau of Justice Statistics would tabulate how many of the workplace offenses that appear on their radar are perpetrated by people with criminal records, but the Department of Justice doesn't count those people in that way.

And the reason for not crunching these numbers might just be that the data would indicate that new hires with criminal records are possibly the least likely to reoffend in the workplace.

A majority - more than 80% - of workplace violence, namely homicides, is perpetrated by people who don't even work there, according to the FBI.

The only firm data we have about risk posed by employees bearing felony convictions comes from a report by a special interest group, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. And their conclusion was that 86% of workplace fraud (larceny, embezzlement, forgery) was perpetrated by people with no criminal record whatsoever. Only 5% of these crimes in occupational situations were perpetrated by people with criminal convictions.

As usual, fear of felons comes less from fact and more from flimflam. Insurance and security companies solicit business from organizations with scare tactics and advice that the first step in keeping work crime-free is running a background check on job applicants - and by extension - not hiring them.
 
The workplace safety objection to hiring felons is unavailing because there's little danger that a new employee poses to other workers, according to the numbers we have available.

Hiring people with felony pasts, even with criminal predilections, doesn't have to ruin any business if competent and attentive managers are on site. Anecdotally, I know that almost no one misbehaves -  steals from, or engages in violence within - well-run businesses that value their employees.

Refusal to hire felons because they may be dangerous has nothing to do with occupational safety or health but rather employers' desire to scrimp on supervision by being guaranteed allegedly flawless employees that don't require that more managerial money be poured into the company.

If the Association of Certified Examiners is correct, plenty of first time property offenses are committed in the workplace and those transgressions have no relation to a pre-existing felony record.

And much of workplace violence isn't even delivered by employee hands.

Instead, these crimes usually occur in poorly supervised workplaces, situations where a company values profit over people and chooses to forego security cameras, surprise outside audits and requiring/allowing that employees take time off so that their absence reveals their misconduct.

Ironically, many of these businesses that claim concern for workplace safety oppose legislation that would protect occupational safety - laws like universal paid sick days and paid family and medical leave which would prevent ill and incapacitated employees from endangering colleagues and themselves when they clock in to earn wages that they can't live without.

Even more ironically, the candidate that is the most opposed to justice reform is the best purveyor of second chances. It is the only example set by Trump that I think people should follow.

Through spokespeople, the Donald says he hires people with records because he wants to hire the most talented, qualified people to work for him. Is it possible that the candidate who has shown prejudice against almost every group, nationality, ethnicity, race, religion, sex or gender, one who's more recent catchphrase is "Get 'em out," is the only candidate running who's free of prejudice against convicted felons?