The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania [official website] ruled [text, PDF] Wednesday that the state’s lifetime ban on convicted criminals gaining full-time employment in nursing homes and long-term care facilities was unconstitutional. The unanimous decision supported the plaintiffs’ claim that section 503(a) of the Older Adults Protective Services Act [text] violated due process. The court held that the bar on convicted individuals was overly broad and was “not substantially related” to the purpose of the Act to protect older adults. Furthermore, the court held that a person’s decades-old conviction did not necessarily make that person unfit to be employed in a particular field, such as long-term care. This claim was substantiated by social science researchers who maintain that a convicted person’s risk of lapsing back into criminal behavior declines over time [NPR report].
The underemployment of persons with a criminal record, which is nearly 70 million Americans, has gathered attention in recent months. In November President Barack Obama announced [JURIST report] that he had instructed the Office of Personal Management (OPM) [official website] to remove inquiries about criminal records [press releases] from federal employment applications. The announcement meant that the president had officially adopted the “ban the box” [advocacy website] social policy platform, which discourages companies from compelling applicants to reveal their nonviolent criminal histories. Multiple states [advocacy website] have previously adopted this initiative with the hopes of lowering the unemployment and underemployment of the previously incarcerated.