The Utility of Criminal History Questions in Community Psychology Program Applications

Sarah Callahan, Jordana Siegel, Elzbieta Wiedbusch, Isabel Dovale, Brandon Isler, Josh Norris, Noah Gelfman and Leonard A. Jason*

The Utility of Criminal History Questions in Community Psychology Program Applications.

Approximately 65 million Americans have a criminal record, which can interfere with chances of seeking and obtaining employment, higher education, and ultimately reintegrating back into
society. It is unfortunate that 60-75% of released prisoners cannot find employment within a year of  their release from prison.

Despite the importance of employment, many employers remain reluctant to hire individuals with criminal histories. Employers are sometimes concerned that criminal justice involved individuals lack relevant job skills and that their past criminal behavior could endanger their business as well as the customers that patronize them.

The stigma attached to individuals with criminal records can have a profound impact on a criminal justice involved individual’s self-esteem and subsequent success. Some applicants, upon
seeing a question pertaining to criminal history, might abandon the application process, fearing rejection because of a prior conviction. Oser has described inmates experiencing clinically significant difficulties with self-esteem due to this application process.

A qualitative study showed that all criminally justice involved participants had unique struggles in succeeding academically in addition to the stigma they dealt with from both their peers as well as faculty and staff. This study also found that none of the admitted students had violated university policy while enrolled. As suggested above, employment is a major predictor in regards to recidivism, and education increases the employability of criminal justice involved individuals. Several studies have examined the benefits of education that occur in correctional settings.

This study corroborates the findings of Olszewska, and suggests that criminal history questions do not have an effect on crime rates. It was surprising to find that these questions are currently being
asked at 44% of institutions that have Community Psychology graduate training programs

Soc Behav Res Pract Open J. 2018; 3(1): 20-24. doi: 10.17140/SBRPOJ-3-112