Frequently Asked Questions

What direct services does the Second Chance Alliance provide?
What is a collateral consequence?
What types of jobs are barred to North Carolinians with criminal records?
What role do background checks play in the hiring process? How can a job-seeker mitigate the effect of having a criminal record?
What employment protections do individuals with criminal records have?
How should job-seekers respond to questions regarding past convictions?
What liability concerns do employers face if they hire people with criminal records and what can they do to protect themselves?
What are common needs among job-seekers with criminal records?
What other stakeholders can play a role in addressing the education and employment needs of people with criminal records?
What benefits are available to employers who hire individuals with criminal records?
As an individual with a criminal record, how can I prepare for reentry into society?
As an individual with a criminal record, where can I go in North Carolina for reentry supports?
I want to create better policy on reentry. How can I get involved?
Where can I learn more about the issues?
Have more questions? Contact Us


Legal Disclaimer

The Second Chance Alliance DOES NOT provide any legal advice and users of this web site should consult with their own lawyer for legal advice.

Any legal information contained in the site is general and should not be construed as legal advice to be applied to any specific factual situation. Any use of the site DOES NOT create or constitute a solicitor-client relationship between the Second Chance Alliance or the North Carolina Justice Center.  As the law differs in each legal jurisdiction and may be interpreted or applied differently depending on your location or situation, the information or use of information provided on this site is not a substitute for the advice of a lawyer.

The Second Chance Alliance does not endorse any content provided by any linked sites, nor does it assume any responsibility for the interpretation or application of any information originating from such content.

What direct services does the Second Chance Alliance provide?

The Second Chance Alliance does not provide direct services. The Alliance is meant to serve as the collective voice of individuals with criminal records and those who serve them across North Carolina in order to affect the perspective and decisions of North Carolina’s leaders and communities around the issue of collateral consequences. While the Alliance does not provide direct services, as an alliance inclusive of advocacy organizations, service provides, and faith-based organizations, we are knowledgeable of local, state, and national resources focused on reentry. Please visit the Reentry Resources section of this website.

What is a collateral consequence?

The collateral consequences of a criminal conviction are the additional civil state penalties, mandated by hundreds of state and federal statutes, which attach to criminal convictions. They are not part of the direct consequences of criminal conviction, such as incarceration, fines, and/or probation. They are the further civil actions by the state, often unknown to defendants and attorneys at the time of conviction, which are triggered as a consequence of the conviction. Their impact is severe, far-reaching, and long-lasting. They include loss or restriction of a professional license, ineligibility for public funds including welfare benefits and student loans, loss of voting rights, ineligibility for jury duty, and deportation for immigrants.

What types of jobs are barred to people with criminal records?

Private employers are permitted to deny employment based on a criminal record only if the employer conducts an individualized determination of the appropriateness of hiring that individual. Put another way, an employer must consider the relationship between the job the person is seeking and his or her criminal record. Accordingly, blanket bans on hiring any person with a criminal record are illegal.

Many jobs in North Carolina require certification or licensure. North Carolina automatically prohibits licensure of a limited number of occupations and types of convictions. For example, the North Carolina State Board of Education is prohibited from certifying any teacher who has been convicted of certain statutorily-specified crimes. See NCGS § 115-296. Most occupational licensing boards are not prohibited from granting licensure to individuals with criminal records; instead, these boards are provided the discretion to deny licensure based on consideration of certain types of criminal convictions. For example, the North Carolina Board of Nursing may “refuse to issue a license to practice nursing” where an applicant has been convicted of “any crime which indicates that the nurse is unfit or incompetent to practice nursing.” See NCGS § 90-171.37. Similarly, the Board of Barber Examiners “may refuse to issue” licensure based on any “felony.” See NCGS 86A-18.

What role do background checks play in the hiring process? How can a job-seeker mitigate the effect of having a criminal record?

According to the Society of Human Resource Management, at least 80 percent of private employers now use criminal background checks as part of their hiring processes. See http://www.nij.gov/journals/263/redemption.htm. More than 800 background check companies and reporting agencies now exist in the United States. The information provided by these companies generally comes from state repositories, courts, state and local databases, and the National Crime Information Center.

Information provided to employers may contain errors from source materials, identity theft, or mistakes made by the reporting agencies. Common errors include (i) cases that were supposed to be sealed, but were not; (ii) arrests that did not lead to court case filings; (iii) warrants for arrests that were, or should have been, vacated, but are still reported on the "rap sheet;" (iv) missing resolutions, results, and decisions of court cases; and (v) specific convictions that are reported incorrectly.

Job-seekers should request a copy of their own criminal records and review them for mistakes, including missing information. Errors should be reported to the reporting agency for prompt action and/or investigation. The reporting agency is required by law to change the disputed information if it is inaccurate.

Provisions of the Fair Credit Reporting Act provide the following protections in regard to background checks: (i) reporting companies must provide individuals with notice if a background check contains information that may have an adverse effect on the applicants' ability to obtain employment when submitted to an employer; (ii) arrests more than seven years old are not required to be reported if the arrests resulted in no convictions; and (iii) if an employer plans to take an adverse employment action based on the background report, the employer must give the applicant or employee a copy and the Federal Trade Commission "Summary of Consumer Rights" before taking the adverse action.

*Information provided by the National Reentry Resource Center. For more information, please visit: http://www.nationalreentryresourcecenter.org/.

What employment protections do individuals with criminal records have?

Employers are permitted to ask about and consider conviction records—and in some cases, arrest records—when making employment decisions. The federal government, through Equal Employment Opportunity Commission policy, provides employment discrimination protection for people with criminal records. These policies require employers to make individual determinations about the appropriateness of hiring someone, rather than permitting employers to have blanket bans on hiring anyone with a criminal record. In particular, they require employers to consider the relationship between the job the person is seeking and his or her criminal record.

A handful of local jurisdictions in North Carolina have laws or policies that prohibit questions on job applications about criminal history, as well as prevent the use of criminal background checks until an individual is in the final stages of the hiring process. These types of regulations, popularly known as "ban the box" initiatives, are intended to ensure that individuals are fairly judged on their merits when pursuing employment. Please visit the Second Chance Alliance’s link to learn more about Ban the Box initiatives in North Carolina.

*Information provided by the National Reentry Resource Center. For more information, please visit: http://www.nationalreentryresourcecenter.org/.

How should job-seekers respond to questions regarding past convictions?

Many job-seekers struggle to explain their criminal records to potential employers. Inaccurate information or an omission may disqualify individuals from employment. In live interviews, interviewees should respond in the following ways to questions about criminal convictions: (i) acknowledge the previous mistakes in a concise and businesslike way; (ii) mention any relevant skills or interests developed while in prison or prior to entering prison; and (iii) reinforce a commitment and an interest in the new job, by stating, for example, "I'm more mature now and my top priority is to work at [company] to use my abilities, focus on the work, and make a fresh start." Applicants should be familiar with their criminal history to answer accurately specific questions on job applications and in interviews.

*Information provided by the National Reentry Resource Center. For more information, please visit: http://www.nationalreentryresourcecenter.org/.

What liability concerns do employers face if they hire people with criminal records and what can they do to protect themselves?

Employers may be reluctant to hire job applicants with criminal records. In a survey of 3,000 employers in four major urban areas (Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, and Los Angeles), only 40 percent said they would consider hiring a person with a criminal record. See http://www.urban.org/uploadedPDF/410855_holzer.pdf. One of the primary reasons offered by employers is fear of incurring liability if they hire someone who then commits a crime on the job.

Generally, in determining whether an employer is liable for negligent hiring, courts will determine whether the employer could have foreseen the crime. They will consider whether the employee had a history or propensity for harmful behaviors and whether the employer knew or should have known about them. An employer's reasonable efforts to determine whether the applicant's criminal record poses a risk or is related to his or her fulfilling the requirements of the job will minimize liability. Certificates of Relief, recently established by the North Carolina General Assembly, shield employers from liability for negligent hiring. NCGS § 15A-173.5 provides “a Certificate of Relief is a bar to any action alleging lack of due care in hiring, retaining, licensing, leasing to, admitting to a school or program, or otherwise transacting business or engaging in activity with the individual to whom the Certificate of Relief was issued, if the person against whom the judicial or administrative proceedings is brought knew of the Certificate of Relief at the time of the alleged negligence.”

The National H.I.R.E. Network's "Employer Resources," provides more information related to negligent hiring and the federal bonding program and is available at http://www.hirenetwork.org/employer.html.

*Information provided by the National Reentry Resource Center. For more information, please visit: http://www.nationalreentryresourcecenter.org/.

What are common needs among job-seekers with criminal records?

The chance that individuals with a criminal record will successfully obtain and retain a job is significantly improved if the broad array of their needs are met. Programs that focus exclusively on employment should ensure that the following areas are addressed:

  • Counseling: Individuals with criminal records, especially those who were incarcerated, often need guidance, coaching, and reassurance on very significant life-issues that they may be facing, including reconnecting with family members. Certain types of evidence-based counseling such as cognitive-behavioral programs have also proven effective in correcting certain core and underlying beliefs that may contribute to "criminal thinking."
  • Stable Housing: Many individuals with criminal records, particularly those recently incarcerated, do not have a stable and permanent place to live and rely on informal networks for their housing. Others enter the shelter system or other transitional housing to the extent that it is available. Disruptions in living conditions due to frequent moves can hurt job performance.
  • Child Support: Most individuals with criminal convictions are male, and many are non-custodial fathers known to the child support system. Child support payments and arrears that may have accumulated during incarceration can serve as a barrier to entering the legitimate labor market. Practitioners often work with clients toward managing or decreasing child support obligations by petitioning the courts and/or encouraging the client to talk with the other parent.
  • Substance Abuse, Health, and Mental Health: Many people involved in the criminal justice system have drug and alcohol issues and other health and mental health challenges that can impede successful employment. These needs must be addressed according to the severity of the condition. For example, some individuals with substance use issues may be able to work and attend outpatient treatment simultaneously, whereas others may need to be in residential treatment before being able to secure employment.

*Information provided by the National Reentry Resource Center. For more information, please visit: http://www.nationalreentryresourcecenter.org/.

What stakeholders can play a role in addressing the education and employment needs of people with criminal records?

  • Business: Private employers are, of course, crucial to the success of any hiring program. Reentry providers must persuade the business community that hiring people with criminal convictions makes good sense. Business organizations and coalitions can also act as political champions and advocates on reentry employment issues.
  • Faith-Based Community: Religious groups and leaders, faith-based organizations, and houses of worship play a pivotal role in supporting the reentry population. Such groups will usually be closely tied to the communities that the individuals re-enter after incarceration, and may form a support network for these individuals. Religious groups emphasize second chances, responsibility, and family values and supplant less positive elements in the lives of those re-entering the community.
  • Community Resource and Nonprofit Centers: Resource centers can serve as a hub where individuals with criminal convictions can access information, services, assistance, and social interaction. These may broadly include One-Stop employment centers, residential reentry centers and other nonprofit organizations serving the formerly incarcerated that provide services such as counseling, financial advice, and housing assistance. Neighborhood-focused organizations also help to form a network that supports reintegration into the community via neighborhood activities, mentoring, and various types of community-minded meetings that give the re-entering individual a "stake" in the overall community's well-being.
  • Residential Reentry Centers: Most people leaving federal prisons and many leaving state prisons transition to the community through structured residential programs that provide strict accountability, access to services, support in finding employment, and supervision. These residential programs are typically of short duration (e.g., three months), but assist people who are leaving prison with employment, family reunification, treatment services, and a graduated reentry to the community. Reentry centers may provide housing for these individuals both before and after their release.

*Information provided by the National Reentry Resource Center. For more information, please visit: http://www.nationalreentryresourcecenter.org/.

What benefits are available to employers who hire individuals with criminal records?

The following financial incentives are commonly available to employers who hire a job applicant with a criminal record:

  • Work Opportunity Tax Credits: Available to private employers who hire targeted groups of traditionally underemployed workers, including people with criminal records. The maximum credit available as of January 2011 is $2,400 per new worker per employee at a single place of employment. While some states offer state-level tax credits, North Carolina does not.
  • Welfare-to-Work Tax Credits: Open to private employers to hire long-term welfare recipients, including people with criminal records. An employer can claim up to 35 percent of an employee's first-year wages. In addition, employers may be eligible to receive Workforce Investment Act (WIA) assistance, including on-the-job training and welfare-to-work wage subsidies, if they are willing to train and provide work experience to individuals with criminal records.
  • Federal Bonding Program: Protection for employers against theft or fraudulent actions of "at-risk" populations, including individuals with criminal records. The Federal Bonding Program issues fidelity bonds that act as insurance policies that will cover losses to employers or employment agencies. These instruments become effective immediately upon employment and are free to the employer. Because they serve as protections and incentives for hiring, reentry practitioners should be familiar with how to procure them for employers and their clients.

*Information provided by the National Reentry Resource Center. For more information, please visit: http://www.nationalreentryresourcecenter.org/.

As an individual with a criminal record, how can I prepare for re-entry into society?

The Pre-Release Reentry Preparation Handbook covers topics such as identification, housing, education, employment, family relationships, money management, and life skills. The handbook was produced in Minnesota and is in some ways Minnesota-specific; however, it was developed for use by incarcerated individuals in all states and is useful for individuals preparing for release in North Carolina, as well.

North Carolina Handbook for Family and Friends of Inmates: Guide to understanding the rules and regulations that govern the North Carolina prison facilities so as to encourage family members to maintain regular contact with relatives and friends who are in prison in order to provide emotional support and stay informed of his or her progress.

A Reentry Guidebook for Incarcerated Veterans in North Carolina: This guide is meant for use by incarcerated veterans preparing for release from North Carolina’s prisons.

As an individual with a criminal record, where can I go in North Carolina for re-entry supports?

North Carolina Local Agency Support Directory: The directory contains contact information for local agencies providing reentry support services.

NC Prisoner Legal Services Resources to Assist Inmates After Release: A directory of resources to assist inmates after release.

NC Dept of Corrections County Resource Guide: The County Resource Guide is a searchable database of community resources in each of North Carolina’s 100 counties. The database contains contact information for many core local, state, and federal agencies, as well as various faith-based and community-based service organizations that provide assistance to individuals with criminal records, including those under correctional supervision, to support a successful transition into their community.

North Carolina Criminal Justice Resource Directory: A service of the Carolina Justice Policy Center, the directory is meant to serve practitioners, individuals with criminal convictions and their families as a compass to help navigate North Carolina’s network of community-based corrections programs, alternative programs to incarceration, re-entry programs, and legal assistance programs.

Resource Center Without Walls: The Community Success Initiative’s database of various reentry documents includes everything from a Reentry Survival Guide to Reentry Employment Strategies to faith-based training materials.

I want to help create better policy on re-entry. How can I get involved?

For more information and to get involved in the NC Second Chance Alliance, sign up for our updates here. You can also contact Daniel Bowes or Ajamu Dillahunt at the NC Justice Center by phone at (919) 861-2061 or (919) 856-3194, or by email at danielb@ncjustice.org or ajamu@ncjustice.org.

Where else can I learn more about reentry?

National HIRE Network: The National Helping Individuals with criminal records Re-enter through Employment Network is both a national clearinghouse for information and an advocate for policy change. The National H.I.R.E. Network also provides training and technical assistance to agencies working to improve the employment prospects for people with criminal records.

Prisoner Reentry Institute: Among its many publications are, “In Our Backyard: Overcoming Resistance to Reentry Housing,” “The Greening of Corrections: Creating a Sustainable System,” and “Venturing Beyond the Glass: Facilitating Successful Reentry with Entrepreneurship.” Also, see PRI’s National Directory of Reentry Resources.

National Employment Law Project: NELP promotes model employment policies and basic protections that allow qualified workers with criminal records to attain and retain quality jobs.

National Reentry Resource Center: A clearinghouse of information about state and local reentry initiatives. Publication topics include starting a reentry initiative, mentoring, performance measures, and law enforcement.

ReEntry.net: This site operates as a clearinghouse of materials for attorneys, social service providers, and policy reform advocates on re-entry and the consequences of criminal proceedings. Publication topics include privacy & criminal records, employment protections for people with criminal records, forging a legal Strategy to remove barriers to employment of people with criminal records. Also provides a database of advocacy toolkits.

Center for Effective Public Policy: The center provides assistance to criminal justice practitioners and policymakers on a variety of topics related to reentry. The center also publishes training curricula, policy and practice briefs, handbooks, video seminars, and other resources regarding reentry.

Reentry Policy Council: The Reentry Policy Council is a national project coordinated by the Council of State Governments Justice Center, a national nonprofit organization that serves policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels from all branches of government. The Reentry Policy Council maintains a searchable database of state and local reentry programs and publishes on several reentry topics, including reentry partnerships, children of incarcerated parents, and federal benefits.Reentry National Media Outreach Campaign: The Campaign is designed to support the work of community and faith-based organizations through offering media resources that will facilitate community discussion and decision making about solution-based reentry programs. The Project Documentation toolbar is particularly useful.

Have more questions? Contact Us!

Contact Daniel Bowes or Ajamu Dillahunt at the NC Justice Center by phone at (919) 861-2061 or (919) 856-3194, or by email at danielb@ncjustice.org or ajamu@ncjustice.org.