One of my early managerial positions was managing US crude supply. I had five supervisors working for me. One of my supervisors administered all US crude oil contracts. It was an important operational job given the large number of contracts and the required legal expertise. When that manager retired and there were no qualified internal candidates. I was forced to hire externally.
I worked with a recruiter who sent me many resumes to review, then decided on the top candidates to interview. After a multi-month process, I offered the position to an experienced contract manager who worked at another energy company. She accepted our offer and submitted to our background verification and drug testing process.
Normally it took about a week to complete these final internal steps before agreeing to a start date. A few days after her acceptance, I received a call from Human Resources (HR) telling me that she failed the drug test. I was shocked as the woman was very experienced. I inquired if the test could be faulty. HR responded that the woman accepted the accuracy of the test. To make matters worse, she had already resigned from her current position. I was forced to start the recruitment process again which left me without a contracts manager for several more months.
The US unemployment rate in July 2022 was 3.5%, a historic low. Included within the 3.5% figure are people between jobs, people who resigned from positions and have not looked for another job, and people who can’t find employment. Currently, there are jobs for those willing to work, although the jobs may not be a good match of skills. In Austin, I regularly see businesses advertising for employees. These positions are mainly service industry jobs, but businesses also need skilled professionals. During my yearly health checkup, my doctor said that her clinic was unsuccessfully seeking internal medicine doctors. The US is in a tight employment market. Workers are needed.
With staff shortages and businesses unable to hire, businesses are closing or under serving. I recently stopped at a Starbucks that was closed, with a sign on the door stating staff shortages. That same day, I tried to order food at a small restaurant and was told that the wait was at least 45 minutes because there were only two overworked cooks. Austin swimming pools opened late this summer due to staff shortages. Lifeguarding was a dream job when I was young! I noticed more teenagers working summer jobs in grocery stores and other retail positions at that time. Businesses are reconsidering who they employ because there are fewer current options. Power has shifted to the workers.
But what about criminals who have completed their sentences and need employment? Should criminals be hired now that there are staff shortages? “Employers seem to be warming up a little bit more to this group, says AnnElizabeth Konkel, an economist at the Indeed Hiring Lab, a research arm of the Indeed jobs site. Her analysis of the site’s May data shows the share of job searches with phrases such as ‘felon friendly’ and ‘no background check’ has risen 45 per cent since May last year and 117 per cent since May 2019.” (Pilita Clark, Help truly wanted, even if you’ve been in jail: Amid crippling worker shortages, some employers are loosening job requirements, Financial Times, 2 July 2022)
Statistics show that while good jobs help reduce prison recidivism, employers are wary of hiring employees with criminal records. There are companies, such as BlueTriton Brands, that welcome applicants with criminal records. “It allows us [BlueTriton] to solve for labour shortages challenges while also providing a new, exciting and potentially life-changing opportunity for applicants to develop personally and professionally.” Gaining employment and trust again is one of the most difficult hurdles that prisoners face when leaving prison. Without employment, they can’t provide for their needs, and many revert to criminal activity to survive. With employment, skills and confidence grow. Employment also turns government support recipients into taxpayers, thus helping the US economy.
How does the Christian faith relate to employing former criminals? An estimated 5.1% of all people in the United States have been confined to a State or Federal prison (Dr. Bjorn Lomborg, University of Copenhagen). However, all US citizens sin. All need grace. After justice is administered, it is time for a fresh start. We should not forget, but Christians are commanded to forgive. In the last chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus approached Peter who denied knowing him three times on the night that Jesus was arrested. He asked Peter three times if Peter loved him. Peter responded positively each time. Jesus answered Peter, “Feed my sheep.”
Peter could have been pushed out of his community and lost his fishing job by running away from Jesus during his time of need. Instead, Peter went back to fishing with the other disciples, reconciled with Jesus, and went out in mission where he was martyred for his faith. Everyone should be granted forgiveness after admitting their transgression and given a fresh start, including those who served time in prison or other court punishments.