How and when to discuss a criminal record
March 20 2018
It can be hard to navigate the world with a criminal record, especially when it's time to disclose your past to potential employers and landlords. Here are a few tips for making this challenging conversation a little easier.
Where to Begin
You don't always have to disclose your entire criminal history, but you should know what's on your record before looking for a job or a place to live. For felonies, start with an Identity History Summary from the FBI. State and local authorities handle misdemeanors, so you'll need to contact individual jurisdictions for information about those offenses.
Often, people are happy to give you a chance once they've talked with you face to face — even potential employers. Experts recommend practicing how you'll explain your record and disclosing it early in the job interview process. Honesty and context can help; a nonviolent offense that happened several years ago may not be a deal breaker, for example.
Choosing a Home
Landlords have some leeway when it comes to deciding who they'll rent to; however, the Federal Fair Housing Act prevents them from broadly denying housing to prospective tenants with any type of criminal history. Again, the severity and nature of the crime and when it occurred will probably factor into this exchange.
Many states have enacted "ban the box" laws to help ex-offenders find work, and a startup called 70MillionJobs aims to connect employers and potential employees who have a criminal record. Several companies in the private sector have also signed the Fair Chance Business Pledge, meaning they've committed to more open-minded practices when it comes to hiring people who have already paid their debt to society.
Have questions? Feel free to reach out.