Criminal Justice-Impacted Students
While those impacted by the criminal justice system may encounter challenges when seeking employment, there are strategies and resources that can lessen those barriers.
The employment landscape is continually evolving, with recent enactment of fair chance legislation and the changing attitudes of employers. These resources, along with all of the TU Career Center’s services for students, can help you navigate your career journey.
Understanding Your Options
While many careers pathways are available, the reality is that there may be some career barriers to those with a criminal conviction. Such restrictions are typically based on the offense and various state and federal regulations. Some occupations that require a license — either for the employee or for the business — can present challenges for people with a felony to pursue (i.e., health care, childcare, and eldercare occupations).
In Maryland, an occupational licensing board may not deny a license because of a conviction unless it directly relates to the desired license or there would be an unreasonable risk to property or safety. There are detailed standards for making these decisions, and no license may be denied seven years after completion of sentence with no intervening charges even if the disqualifying standards exist, unless the person is a registered sex offender.
Licensing/professional bodies also typically have mechanisms to appeal negative decisions. Keep in mind occupational licensing policies vary state-by-state. It’s important to understand the employment landscape before you make a career plan, start training, or search for a job.
Job Search Advice
- Build your experience base — Consider volunteer experience to build your resume, develop skills, grow your network and demonstrate work ethic.
- Build relationships — Connect with faculty, advisors, volunteer supervisors, campus managers, etc. to develop references who can provide a counter-narrative to a justice-impacted background.
- Reframe your experience — Reflect on and be able to communicate how you’ve developed, the skills you’ve honed, and the perspective gained to effectively communicate positive change.
- Be prepared to address the past — It is important to be honest, while also giving only the necessary information. Some applications ask only about felonies, and not arrests and/or misdemeanors. Others ask only about convictions in the past seven years. Employers may need to know what is on your record, but don't need the whole story. Keep your responses to-the-point for a better chance of getting an interview. Then you can explain any details necessary in the interview process.
- Know the benefits — Tell employers about the benefits of hiring a worker with a criminal record, including the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, which gives tax discounts to employers who hire low-income ex-offenders and the Federal Bonding Program, which is insurance for employers concerned about theft or dishonesty by an employee.
- Take advantage of resources — Ask for help and utilize available services and resources, both on campus and in the community.
- Explore entrepreneurial opportunities — TU is a community hub for entrepreneurship where innovative ideas, people and businesses are sparked, developed and nurtured.
- TU Student Employment – Most TU student employment positions will not require a background check. Search for current openings via Handshake.
- Fair Chance Pledge – View a list of organizations who have pledged to provide individuals with criminal records, including formerly incarcerated individuals, a fair chance to participate in the American economy (scroll down the page to get to the list).
- Honest Jobs – Find a job up to 8x faster by accessing a network of 1,000+ fair-chance employers across the country
- Jails to Jobs – From jails to jobs — A how-to guide to becoming employed.
- Fair Chance jobs on Indeed.com
- Go to indeed.com.
- In the “What” field type in “Fair Chance Employers.”
- In the “Where” field type the city you wish to search. You’ll see a list of employers in your city that are Fair Chance Employers.
- To narrow this down a little more, you’ll want to click on “Advanced Job Search” and then type in the keywords for job titles for which you’re interested in applying.
- Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on “Find Jobs.”
Know Your Rights
Fair Chance Policies
These prohibit employers from excluding individuals with a criminal record from consideration before determining they’re qualified for employment; typically delaying criminal background checks until an applicant meets the basic criteria for a job.
- With the Fair Chance to Compete for Jobs Act of 2019, which goes into effect December 2021, all federal agencies and private employers who contract with the federal government must delay criminal background checks and questions until after a conditional offer has been made.
- Maryland’s “ban-the-box” law prohibits employers from asking job applicants about their criminal history on the initial job application. Employers with at least 15 full-time employees may not, before the first in-person interview, require an applicant for employment to disclose whether the applicant has a criminal record or has had criminal accusations brought against the applicant. The Act applies not only to traditional employment, but also more broadly to “any work for pay and any form of vocational or educational training, with or without pay,” including contractual, temporary, seasonal, or contingent work, and work assigned through a temporary or other employment agency. The Act does not apply to employers that provide programs, services, or direct care to minors or vulnerable adults. A criminal record includes an arrest, a guilty plea or verdict, a plea of nolo contendere, the marking of a charge “stet” on the docket, a disposition of probation before judgment or a disposition of not criminally responsible.
It is important to know what is on your criminal record. To make sure that employers see an accurate version of your criminal record, request a copy for yourself at Individual Background Check. Review your record with a legal professional or someone from the probation or parole office. Make sure you understand the information on your record and explore the possibility of the following actions.
Criminal Record Actions
Expungement means that the courts seal all or part of your criminal record from the public. Those items are still on your record, but employers will not see them when they do a background check. Information on Maryland Criminal Record Expungement (PDF) can be found here.
A pardon is the official forgiveness of fault, offense or guilt. Pardons are usually granted to someone who served their sentence and is living a crime-free life. A pardon does not seal or erase a conviction, but it is a good sign of rehabilitation.
Sealing a Criminal Record
To seal a criminal record means that a court official hides all record of the criminal proceedings from public access. An employer would not know a criminal record existed if it was sealed. A juvenile record sealed through the juvenile court would also not show up on any type of background check. Someone with a sealed criminal record can lawfully respond to any questions about arrests, acquittals and convictions as if they never happened.
There are several types of pre-screenings or checks an employer can do, but typically only with your permission.
Examples of Employment Checks
Employment History Checks
In most cases, a past employer is allowed only to reveal the dates of employment with that company, job titles and if the employee is eligible for rehire. Any other details, including your job performance or reasons for leaving the job are not discussed.
The individuals serving as your references can talk about your job performance in detail. Be sure to confirm directly with these individuals that they are able to serve as a positive reference for you; if not, seek out another individual to serve as a reference.
These can include pre-employment tests, reasonable suspicion and for-cause tests, random tests and post-accident test. You will know if a drug test is part of the hiring process. After hire, the company will give you a copy of their employee drug policies.
If the credit information is directly related to a job, it's okay to check. Otherwise, using credit as part of the hiring process might be discriminatory. Employers should let you know about their policies and procedures related to credit checks. Federal law requires the three national consumer credit reporting companies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) to give you a free credit report each year. You can access the free report at annualcreditreport.com.
An employer can ask you about your criminal record within the parameters of federal and state laws fair chance laws.
- Maryland Re-Entry Initiative – Job resources for returning citizens.
- Maryland Criminal Justice Information Services FAQs – Includes information on expungement and background checks.
- National H.I.R.E. Network – Established by the Legal Action Center in 2001, the national Helping Individuals with criminal records Re-enter through Employment (H.I.R.E.) network is both a national clearinghouse for information and an advocate for policy change.
- Honest Jobs – National job marketplace for people who have been affected by the criminal justice system.
- National Reentry Resource Center (NRRC) – The nation’s primary source of information and guidance in reentry.
- CareerOneStop – Job search help for ex-offenders sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor.
- The Job Search Guide for People with a Criminal Record – CareerOneStop.
- Ex-Offender Local Resources (PDF) – CareerOneStop: Maryland information is on pages 56-59.