WASHINGTON — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has joined other companies in signing a pledge to help provide more opportunities and eliminate barriers to potential job applicants with criminal records, the White House said Tuesday.
The “Fair Chance Business Pledge,” launched by the Obama administration in April, urges the private sector to do its share in “creating a pathway for a second chance” for formerly incarcerated individuals.
“Since the president took office, this administration has been committed to reforming America’s criminal justice system and highlighting the importance of reducing barriers facing justice-involved individuals who are trying to put their lives back on track,” the White House said. “Over 2.2 million individuals are incarcerated in American prisons and jails, and the vast majority of them will return to their communities. Improving education and job opportunities for these individuals has a recognized effect of reducing crime and will make our communities safer.”
Wal-Mart was among a group of 70 new companies, colleges and other entities that have signed the pledge, bringing the total number of employers to 185, the White House said. By signing the pledge, the companies are “voicing strong support for economic opportunity for all, including the approximately 70 million Americans who have some form of a criminal record,” according to an administration fact sheet.
In addition, companies make a commitment to reduce barriers, including instituting practices known as “banning the box,” where employers delay inquiries about a job applicant’s criminal records until later in the hiring process to better consider a candidate’s qualifications. Companies also commit to ensuring an applicant’s criminal record is “considered in proper context” and engage in hiring practices “that do not necessarily place jobs out of reach for those with criminal records.”
Companies involved in the first tranche of pledges in April included Under Armour/Plank Industries, Unilever, American Airlines, The Coca-Cola Co., Facebook, Georgia Pacific, Google, The Hershey Co., Koch Industries and Starbucks.
The administration said the U.S. accounts for 5 percent of the world’s population and 25 percent of its inmates.
“Each year, more than 600,000 inmates are released from federal and state prisons, and another 11.4 million individuals cycle through local jails. Around 70 million Americans have some sort of criminal record — almost one in three Americans of working age,” the White House said. “Too often, that record disqualifies individuals from being a full participant in their communities — even if they’ve already paid their debt to society. As a result, millions of Americans have difficulty finding employment.”