When ex-offenders can't find legal ways to support themselves, the lure of crime can rise. Every time one of them returns to prison, it usually means another crime victim -- and another sentence.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission took an important step last year to reduce recidivism by issuing guidelines that prohibit employers from denying people jobs based solely on their criminal records. These revisions should ease some of the daunting barriers ex-offenders face when they seek employment -- if employers follow them.
State officials ought to get behind the guidelines. The EEOC supports prisoner re-entry initiatives and goals in Pennsylvania, which has made significant investments to ensure that people who are released from prison get the help they need to stay out.
The EEOC considers blanket exclusions on hiring people with an arrest or criminal history a violation of federal law. The guidelines do not ban background checks. But they urge employers to consider how long ago a crime was committed, the nature of the offense and whether it is relevant to the job.
As the American Civil Liberties Union has noted in commenting on the EEOC guidelines: "People with criminal records must have access to jobs to ensure their success." Ultimately, their success helps everyone.