As a standard part of hiring new workers, lots of businesses run background checks on applicants using the FBI's criminal databases. But those databases have serious problems.
A new report from the National Employment Law Project takes a close look at the FBI's databases, and finds that their widespread use as an unquestioned screening tool could be resulting in thousands of worthy people being unable to find work. One major problem: full half of the reports in the database have information about why someone was arrested, but fail to report what the final outcome of the case was. An outcome that could be, you know, being found innocent. From the report:
NELP estimates that 1.8 million workers a year are subject to FBI background checks that include faulty or incomplete information, and 600,000 of those workers may be prejudiced in their job search when the FBI reports do not include up-to-date and accurate information that would benefit them. African Americans are especially disadvantaged by the faulty records because people of color are consistently arrested at rates greater than their representation in the general population, and large numbers of those arrests never lead to conviction.
It does not take a great deal of imagination to connect the dots from stop-and-frisk to discriminatory policing to faulty FBI databases to persistent unemployment. The database is the easiest part of this chain to fix. So it should be fixed.