Opinion Poll: Small Businesses Find Solutions to Workforce Challenges in Criminal Justice Reform

For Immediate Release: 
Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Small businesses in six key states and across political parties support Clean Slate policies to provide justice-impacted individuals with greater opportunities for employment

Washington, D.C. - Today, Small Business Majority released new polling revealing bipartisan support for criminal justice reform, including implementing Clean Slate policies to create workforce diversity and expanding candidate pools. 

The poll, conducted in six states – Georgia, Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas – found that 84% of small business owners agreed that Clean Slate policies would open up a pool of job applicants that deserve a second chance. Regardless of political affiliation (30% of respondents identified as Republican, 37% of respondents identified as Democrat, and 27% of respondents identified as Independent), small businesses shared support for policies that can help boost labor recruitment. Given the ongoing workforce challenges hindering small business growth, the poll results confirmed widespread backing for policies that seal or expunge qualifying criminal records from background checks. 

“Enacting policies that help us tap into a larger pool of candidates only makes sense,” said John Arensmeyer, Founder & CEO, Small Business Majority. “Our new opinion poll reveals that small business owners are optimistic about their business conditions despite rising inflation, ongoing supply chain disruptions, and daunting hiring and recruiting labor needs. However, 63% of respondents say it’s hard to find quality candidates. Smaller firms widely support legislation that improves second-chance hiring opportunities for justice-impacted individuals, opening the candidate pool to those eager to contribute to their local economy and community. We are happy to join coalitions like the Workforce and Justice Alliance to help drive national change while also supporting small businesses seeking to engage in criminal justice reform efforts.” 

For many small business owners, criminal justice reform is more than laws passed on Capitol Hill. One in three American adults has some form of criminal or arrest record, which can negatively impact families and communities. Even a minor criminal record can create lifelong barriers to employment, and communities of color are disproportionately affected. Small Business Majority network members have often anecdotally shared that although they’ve had positive experiences with second-chance hiring, stigma can sometimes impede efforts to tap into this pool of applicants. The poll reveals that small businesses are aware of the inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system and agree with the following sentiments:

  • 83% agree one way to expand the productivity and diversity of our nation’s workforce is by making it easier for employers to recruit from underused candidate pools. 
  • 79% agree that removing barriers to employment for people with criminal records will save tax dollars by reducing recidivism and the need for long-term government assistance.
  • 71% agree that the U.S. criminal justice system disproportionately impacts people of color, leading to employment barriers and economic mobility. 

“America is a nation of possibilities, but too often those possibilities are thwarted by stereotypes and prejudices,” said Jonathan Summers, Founder, Sage Leadership Academy, Riverside, Calif. “As a small business owner and a formerly incarcerated person, I know what it means to open doors for others and give people a second chance. By doing that, I’ve learned that people are more similar than dissimilar, and most people are genuine at heart. This attitude has served my business well. I implore other small business owners to get past their personal fear and employ justice-impacted individuals because they could become your business’s rockstars.”

This report outlines support for policies that can help address our country’s hiring challenges. Utilized on federal and state levels, the poll findings make the case for stronger legislation that can help to reduce barriers to a diverse labor pool created by inequities in the criminal justice system.

This opinion poll, conducted by Chesapeake Beach Consulting for Small Business Majority, reflects the opinions of 600 small business owners from Georgia, Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas. The poll, conducted from September 13 through September 20, has a margin of error of +/-4% at a 95% confidence interval. Read the full report.

About Small Business Majority

Small Business Majority is a national small business organization that empowers America's diverse entrepreneurs to build a thriving and equitable economy. We engage our network of more than 85,000 small businesses and 1,500 business and community organizations to deliver resources to entrepreneurs and advocate for public policy solutions that promote inclusive small business growth. Our work is bolstered by extensive research and deep connections with the small business community that enable us to educate stakeholders about key issues impacting America’s entrepreneurs, with a special focus on the smallest businesses and those facing systemic inequities. Learn more about us on our website and follow us on TwitterFacebookand Instagram.

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