News & Politics

'Evil' Koch Industries Wants to ... Help Ex-Cons Find Work

The Koch brothers serve one primary function for the American left: they are the boogeyman, the PR-manufactured target of hatred for leftists to organize around.

Now, their corporation — Koch Industries — is doing something so conservative, so insidious, that the left is bound to go nuts. You see, they’re taking a new stance on convicted felons: Koch Industries wants to — *GASP* — hire them!

Koch Industries has “banned the box” — they removed the box on job applications asking if an applicant is a convicted felon:

When people with criminal records struggle to find work, they become much more likely to re-offend. The lack of employment is one of the key reasons why over two-thirds are re-arrested, over half are re-convicted, and two out of five are re-incarcerated within three years of release.

The resulting increases in crime and incarceration rates affect everyone, first through a decrease in local safety, second through higher costs to taxpayers, and third through the lost value that those individuals could have brought to the economy. A 2010 study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research estimates the annual lost economic value at between $57 billion and $65 billion.

To help end this sad cycle, businesses should consider instituting a “ban the box” hiring policy. A 2009 study by Harvard and Princeton researchers showed that checking the box on a job application that indicates a criminal record reduces the chances of a callback by 50%, with blacks hurt twice as much as white applicants with criminal records. By eliminating or delaying this question, candidates are less likely to be rejected before their qualifications are considered.

We employ this approach at Koch Industries — we officially removed the box last year, delaying the question until later in the hiring process. Before that, we had a process by which we reviewed a job candidate’s offense to determine whether it was job-related. Even if it was, we engaged in a further review into the nature of the offense and the time passed since its occurrence. The combination of these two policies has resulted in job offers to thousands of candidates with criminal records.

When someone gets out of prison, we often say they have “paid their debt to society,” but they haven’t. They continue paying, even after they finish their parole terms. They continue paying until the day they die because of the troubles they face finding work as felons.

Of course, many see this as a feature, not a bug. “Don’t break the law if you don’t want to be treated as a lawbreaker.”  It’s a fair point. However, people do stupid things, and people do change. Yet finding opportunities to prove you’ve changed is tough.

If companies would give ex-felons a real chance, it might do wonders for our current prison overcrowding as recidivism is reduced. Companies may be understandably concerned that the risk is too great — but apparently evil right-wing boogeyman Koch Industries wants to give them all a second chance.

Let’s see — do all the politically active left-leaning corporations out there take the same stance? Of course not.