Don't write off criminals when it comes to hiring and housing
In some states a felony record is a de facto bar from renting decent apartments or getting decent jobs for life.
A more reasonable approach would be to limit how employers and those providing routine services to the public could treat you based on how long it has been since you were in prison, on parole, or on a parole-like supervised release.
Absent special situations such as those listed below, I recommend the following as a STARTING point for how to treat ex-cons when it comes to housing and employment:
Anyone on probation or parole: Positive, neutral, or negative recommendaiton from probation or parole officer should override time-since-discharge.
Anyone who has made himself accountable to another person or group in a legally-binding way that is accredited by the state: Positive, neutral, or negative recommendaiton from probation or parole officer should override time-since-discharge.
Anyone who has made himself accountable to another trustworthy person or group other than above: If the person or group can be trusted, their positive, neutral, or negative recommendaiton from probation or parole officer should override time-since-discharge.
Anyone discharged person not on parole or probation and not under legally-binding accountability who had at least 3 years of such supervision, whose last 3 years showed consistent positive recommendations, and who has had no negative indicators during those 3 years or since: Treat as a positive recommendation.
Anyone discharged person not on parole or probation and not under legally-binding accountability who had at least 3 years of such supervision, whose last 3 years showed consistent positive recommendations, and who has had no negative indicators during those 3 years or since AND who has been discharged from the legal system for 3 years for a misdemeanor or 5 years for a felony: Consider rehabilitated.
Anyone discharged from the legal system for 5 years for a misdemeanor or 10 years for a felony and no negative information during that time: Consider rehabilitated.
Anything in between: Treat it on a case-by-case basis. While summarily denying housing or employment based only on criminal activity may be efficient from the landlord's or employer's point of view, it is very inefficient from society's point of view. Although they may not be able to measure it, the landlord and employer pay "their share" of this inefficiency every time they turn down someone just because of a criminal record. If every landlord and every employer would do "their part" and not automatically disqualify criminals except where required by law, society would be better.
Special situations that might require special handling:
* Parole and probation officers and others who are known to "grade high" or "grade low" or who are not willing or able to justify their assessments
* Anyone with a recent history of gang involvement
* Anyone with an offense against another person can't demonstrate he is a low risk of hurting people again
* Anyone with a recent history of lack of self control that is likely to lead to criminal acts affecting housing or employment
* Anyone whose specific criminal history legally disqualifies him from a particular job or for promotion opportunities expected to be earned by those holding the job
* Anyone whose specific criminal history legally prevents him from residing in a particular location
* Anyone with a current or only-recently-resolved emotional issues which this job or housing situation may re-trigger, but only if such issues are likely to impact the housing or employment in question or are more likely to result in a parole or probation violation, or result in a new criminal offense than denying the employment or housing in question. For example, expected absenteeism due to violating probation is grounds for denying employment.
Some legal changes that should be made to make this happen
Landlords and employers should have general immunity from civil lawsuits if they rent to or hire a person with a criminal record, provided that they make a good faith effort in all of these areas:
* The employer or landlord checks the employee or tenant's recent (last 7-10 years for felonies, less for misdemeanors) public criminal record.
* If the employer takes risks that are ALREADY considered by applicable law to be "high risk," he either provides risk mitigation or alerts affected parties so they can manage their own risk. For example, a white-collar crook with access to a company's books requires either checks and balances to prevent fraud or notification to all stockholders so they can sell or vote to fire the management if they choose. A landlord renting to a person with recent criminal convictions for gang activity or any such convictions and any known recent gang-related behavior should forward this information to local police so they can step up patrols.
* If a landlord or employer has a significant concentration of criminal tenants or employees AND as a group the total tenant base of the property or the total employment at any one location during any one shift represents a significantly higher risk to anyone as compared to a property or location of employment with a randomly-selected group of individuals, the employer or tenant either mitigates the risk or alerts those put at risk that they need to watch their back.
Landlords and employers should be financially encouraged to house and hire those straight out of prison.
All inmates approaching a possible release date and all recently-released convicts should be given free access to credentialed rehabilitation specialists who are funded well enough to do their job right. These specialists will be in a position to provide positive, neutral, or negative recommendations regarding the suitability of a particular individual for a particular housing or employment situation from a public-risk perspective. Such individuals should have legal immunity for making a recommendation that later turns out to be incorrect.