Uber Technologies has recently announced its plan to help lower recidivism rates in Connecticut by changing its hiring policy. Previously, individuals with criminal records were prohibited from driving for the ridesharing service, but that will soon be coming to an end.
Last week, the company revealed that its Connecticut employment market will soon be expanding to include those with minor, nonviolent criminal records. Travis Kalanick, Uber chief executive officer, commented on the new policy by saying, “Millions of Americans have served their time and want to earn an honest living, to break the cycle of recidivism, we need to give them a second chance.”
One of the more uncomfortable aspects of criminal justice reform is the issue of reentry. While prisons and jails exist as institutions of correction, the stigma of serving time follows you long after a prison, or probation sentence has been served.
Securing employment or even a residence after being released from a correctional facility are not easy tasks. When a reformed offender is presented with an application-whether for a residence or for employment- they are obligated to disclose their criminal record. For many, if not most, once that record is disclosed, the odds of being hired or being allowed to rent an apartment are slim to none.
While we cannot be too harsh on those who may be hesitant to hire or rent to someone who has served time behind bars, in order for reentering members of society to be successful, a fair amount of understanding and empathy are needed.
“One of the things we kept hearing over and over were some of the offenses we put on the list as disqualifying were over-broad,” Joe Sullivan, Uber’s chief security officer, commented. He continued, “A petty theft conviction from six years ago should not be held against someone.”
For those struggling to successfully reenter their local Connecticut communities, Uber is offering a potentially life altering opportunity. Without a job and a steady income, many end up reverting back to the habits that landed them behind bars in the first place.
According to the National Institute of Justice, within three years of being released, 67 percent of those attempting to reenter society are rearrested. However, the data draws an even darker picture. Of those who are rearrested, 56.7 percent are arrested within the first year of being released. These odds increase when employment and a proper residence become harder to obtain.
Since Uber has already been a target of local cab competitors who have criticized the company for being too lenient in its screening process, the company has limited which former offenders will be considered for employment.
Given the intimate nature of ridesharing, those with a history of sexual, violent, or driving-related charges will still be ineligible to work for the company. However, Uber recognizes that former offenders ineligible for employment with its ridesharing company are still in desperate need of jobs, and have offered to place them in contact with reentry services better suited to deal with their specific circumstances.
Currently, those who have been formerly convicted of crimes such as petty theft, fraud, or resisting arrest will be permitted to drive for the service. The new hiring policy is set to go into effect in January 2017 and there are also plans to extend this policy to Rhode Island in the coming year as well.
Uber has lead the way for many other companies in the burgeoning sharing economy, we can only hope that other players follow its lead when it comes to lowering recidivism rates across the country.