Delaware Public Media

Delawareans with criminal histories face employment barriers

Sep 4, 2017

Gov. John Carney is promising to reform the state’s prison system. He said inmates in Delaware need educational and vocational opportunities while in prison so they can be successful when they leave.

But ex-offenders face many barriers to success after being released from prison.

The state launched its mobile job center last week. State Labor Secretary Patrice Gilliam-Johnson said she hopes connecting residents with jobs will reduce crime.

But for people with criminal histories, it can be a challenge to find employers willing to take a chance on them. Gilliam-Johnson said the state offers help getting a pardon or an expungement, which means making  their records unavailable to the public.

“So you know, a lot of times when people come into the Department of Labor and have records, you know depending on the circumstances, we’re able to take them in bring into our program to allow them to have their records expunged, which then eliminates many of the barriers as they are encounter as they are finding employment,” she said.

People who want their records sealed must not have been arrested, incarcerated, or on probation or parole in the past 3 years. Adult convictions are ineligible.

Delaware native Regan Hines recently produced a documentary on the U.S. criminal justice system called “Incarcerating Us.” He praises an additional step Delaware took -- banning employers from asking about criminal convictions on an initial application through its “ban the box” law.

“I think we’re in a situation where that is beneficial to deal with that problem at least with that first hurdle so people can at least maybe have a further conversation and have a chance to explain why they do have a criminal record in further interviews with an employer so that they’re not you know taken off the list and can get an interview,” he said.

Despite these efforts, recidivism remains an issue in Delaware. State statistics for 2010 through 2012 show that the majority of people who leave prison are back behind bars within three years.