A report by campaign group #FairChecks found that England and Wales has a much more punitive approach to criminal record disclosure requirements than the five U.S. States researched.
The report suggests that people with criminal records are more likely to face barriers to employment in England and Wales. Whilst one in six people in England and Wales have criminal records, 27% of U.K. employers said they would not hire someone with a criminal conviction. Criminal records checks are required by employers during the recruitment process and will reveal offences and sentences given, as well as even police warnings for minor crimes.
This was compared with the approach taken in the U.S. states, where it was found that they were more open to giving people another chance. The flexibility of the U.S. legal system is reflected in their choice to seal records of childhood crimes, and many states also prevent employers from asking applicants about their criminal record in an initial application. This decision ‘has been supported by major businesses such as JPMorgan and Home Depot, as they need talented staff. They don’t want to know if someone was caught with drugs as a teenager’.
An example given in the report was the story of ‘Rich’ who was convicted of possessing drugs 12 years ago. In all five U.S. states examined, he could remove the conviction from his record after a maximum of 10 years. However, in England and Wales, Rich’s conviction would show up for the rest of his life on detailed checks required for jobs such as being a teacher, a nurse, an accountant or a taxi driver.
The report makes three policy recommendations which aim to reform the punitive approach taken in England and Wales to enable people with criminal records to move forward with employment. The recommendations are to remove childhood offences from the record, remove cautions from criminal record checks, and stop revealing short prison sentences forever.