State reports: Small business owners support criminal justice reforms to address persistent workforce challenges

Small Business Majority
Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Small businesses are still struggling to hire and retain a ready workforce, persistent challenges in the wake of the pandemic. A parallel problem for the nation’s labor market cannot be ignored: more than 70 million Americans have a criminal record, reducing their opportunities to contribute to society and earn a living wage. Even a minor criminal record can create a wall of lifelong barriers that prevent gainful employment. 

What’s more, criminal records also further widen the racial wealth gap: While only 13.6% of the population is Black, 28% of all arrests and 36% of all felony convictions are imposed on Black people. Yet employers who hire justice-impacted workers report that their quality of work and contributions are on par with or better than other employees, and turnover rates are notably lower. Small businesses employ nearly half (46.4%) of the private workforce, opening a powerful role for small employers to play in addressing the labor shortage and reducing the harms of mass incarceration.

This poll, conducted in six states – Georgia, Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas – found widespread support for Clean Slate policies among small business owners, which would open up a pool of job applicants that deserve a second chance. Below you will find our individual state analyses of small business respondents and how state and federal policies can change the criminal justice system in the United States.

State reports: