Rediscovering Redemption

Chronicling the work of Redemption in the lives of Followers and Leaders. Articles, research and meditations from the writings of Dr. Joseph J. Bucci. Get blog updates by following Joe on Twitter @Re_Redemption

Joseph J. Bucci

I Was in Prison, and You Offered Me … Work

In a story about a jobs program for former convicts in Akron, OH ( the writer told of the struggles that returning drug addicts and criminals have in finding work to complete their reinstatement into society. Whether it is to them the perception of finding independence again or in an effort to make things right, redemptive work seems to offer the opportunity for renewal. One of the more interesting aspects of this is the fact those having paid the price through prison time or through surviving a drug treatment program; and now looking for work as redemption, those with criminal records are generally people for whom the record of past sins paid is not enough to allow them to work.

In a research study published in January 2010, the Society for Human Resources Management conducted a survey of 433 randomly selected HR professionals from SHRM’s membership to determine the extent of background checks conducted on potential applicants (SHRM, 2010). 73% of the organizations surveyed conducted criminal background checks on all job candidates (SHRM, 2010). Blumstein and Nakamura (2009) draw from the same data tables in the SHRM reports and, including businesses that always or sometimes conduct criminal background checks, determine that this percentage is over 80% (Blumstein and Nakamura, 2009).

The significance of these background checks have a variable influence on the decision to hire. According to the survey, the confirmation of convictions can have a very influential impact on whether to extend a job offer to the candidate (SHRM, 2010). According to Blumstein and Nakamura (2009), whether an applicant states up front that they have committed a crime, or the employer determines this through a criminal background check, there is a likelihood that the applicant will not get the job, because many employers are unwilling to hire ex-offenders (Blumstein and Nakamura, 2009). These researchers go on to suggest that “most people would probably agree” (Blumstein and Nakamura, 2009) that at some point in time ex-offenders who have not continued criminal activity should not be handicapped by their criminal record when seeking employment (Blumstein and Nakamura, 2009).

This new research funded by the National Institute of Justice seeks to empirically determine whether employers and should be concerned about past criminal offenses when hiring a new employee. Blumstein and Nakamura have gone beyond what they determine is an employer choosing arbitrary expiration dates for the revocation of prior criminal records, and they have developed an actuarial model for determining when ex-offender has for employment purposes been clean long enough to be considered “redeemed” – their term (Blumstein and Nakamura, 2009). The goal of this research was to determine empirically a point in time in which the risk of recidivism (returning to criminal activity) was no greater for a population of former criminals than it was for a similar group from the general population (Blumstein and Nakamura, 2009).

How interesting that in this criminal justice context there are efforts to determine whether persons committing past offenses can be considered “redeemed” for employment purposes and given a second chance to start fresh. How challenging this is in light of a previously mentioned study done by this author, where faith-based managers, given the opportunity to hire former drug addicts, convicts and even those previously terminated from their organizations strongly disagreed with this approach (Bucci and Bruce, 2008). Although the group of managers was skewed strongly Protestant, there was a clear extension of the Christian ethic represented by all responses to statements that managerial decision making was guided by faith, as well as the desire to express one’s faith by offering redemptive opportunities to employees. Yet the results of the survey indicate that “second chance” opportunities in the form of hiring former drug addicts and criminals is not an activity that is being pursued in these managers’ organizations, nor are these managers seeing this activity if practiced as an effective strategy for their organization (Bucci and Bruce, 2008).

The survey group was a group of business professionals with clearly stated values which would be supportive of this premise, and their responses indicated such. Yet these managers have not seen the fruit for their efforts with restorative ‘second chance’ initiatives. It is a positive sign that they remain strongly committed to these values. But many side-bar comments and notes indicated that although the premise of following this path of redemptive leadership is a reflection of their faith commitment, many were skeptical of the practices working. The researcher has challenged the leaders to pursue more actively a “theology of the workplace,” and the future looks very promising for further cooperation on shared leadership projects. More work will need to be done to present a convincing argument, not only for the general management population, but also for the skeptical managers of faith, even with the foundation of scripture as a guide (Matthew 25:31-46).

* Blumstein, A., & Nakamura, K. (n.d.). ‘Redemption’ in an Era of Widespread Criminal Background Checks | National Institute of Justice. National Institute of Justice: Criminal Justice Research, Development and Evaluation. Retrieved January 18, 2012, from
* Bucci, J. J., & Bruce, M. L. (2008). Perceived responsibility of faith-influenced managers to offer second chances. In Christian Business Faculty Association Annual Conference. Indianapolis, IN: Anderson University.

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