Combating Discrimination Against the Formerly Incarcerated in the Labor Market

32 Pages Posted: 24 Jun 2018 Last revised: 9 Jul 2019

See all articles by Ifeoma Ajunwa

Ifeoma Ajunwa

Cornell University ILR School/Law School; Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society

Angela Onwuachi-Willig

Boston University School of Law

Date Written: June 6, 2018

Abstract

Both discrimination by private employers and governmental restrictions in the form of statutes that prohibit professional licensing serve to exclude the formerly incarcerated from much of the labor market. This Essay explores and analyzes potential legislative and contractual means for removing these barriers to labor market participation by the formerly incarcerated. First, as a means of addressing discrimination by the state, Part I of this Essay explores the ways in which the adoption of racial impact statements — which mandate that legislators consider statistical analyses of the potential impact their proposed legislation may have on racial and ethnic groups prior to enacting such legislation — could help to reduce labor market discrimination against the formerly incarcerated. In so doing, this Part analyzes the influence of racial impact statements in the few states that have implemented them. Part II of this Essay examines the possibility of a contractual solution that could help to decrease discrimination against the formerly incarcerated in the private labor market, particularly by those employers who rely on the labor of imprisoned individuals. Specifically, this Part uses the fact that many private corporations rely on and profit from low-wage prison labor to argue that the state penal institutions that lease prisoners to such corporations should push for contractual agreements that stipulate that corporations relying on prison labor must revoke policies that bar employing the formerly incarcerated upon their release. In addition, this Part explicates how contractual stipulations may also provide for affirmative hiring policies for the formerly incarcerated. Finally, this Essay concludes by highlighting how failure to address continued labor market discrimination against the formerly incarcerated could render the formerly incarcerated a permanent economic underclass, thereby undermining notions of fairness and equality.

Keywords: Labor, Employment, Anti-Discrimination, Contracts, Incarceration, Reentry

Suggested Citation

Ajunwa, Ifeoma and Onwuachi-Willig, Angela, Combating Discrimination Against the Formerly Incarcerated in the Labor Market (June 6, 2018). Ifeoma Ajunwa and Angela Onwuachi-Willig, Combatting Discrimination Against the Formerly Incarcerated in the Labor Market, 112 Nw. U. L. Rev. 1385 (2018). . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3192617 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3192617

Ifeoma Ajunwa (Contact Author)

Cornell University ILR School/Law School ( email )

Ithaca, NY 14853-3901
United States

Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society ( email )

Harvard Law School
23 Everett, 2nd Floor
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Angela Onwuachi-Willig

Boston University School of Law ( email )

765 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States
6415102368 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.bu.edu/law/profile/angela-onwuachi-willig/

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