Can a Felon Get an IT Job?

IT stands for Information Technology. Information Technology is the use of computers, storage, networking, and devices. These components are used to create, process, and secure data. IT applies technology to solve business problems for companies of all sizes.

IT departments are responsible for:

  • IT governance: this has to do with policies and processes that make sure IT systems run smoothly.
  • IT operations: This involves the daily work of an IT department. It is tech support, network maintenance, and security testing.
  • Hardware and infrastructure: This is all the physical components of IT infrastructure. It is the setup and maintenance of equipment like routers, phone systems, and laptops.

This blog post will cover whether a felon can get an IT job.

  • Is IT a Fit For You?
  • A Fair Chance
  • Getting Licensed and Certified
  • The College Possibility
  • Seeking Remedy Through The Courts

Is IT a Fit For You?

Do you think that processes should not stay the same—they should be questioned and updated? You love working on projects with others or you look at failure as a way of learning new things? aybe, you are a creative problem solver and you are passionate about IT?  If this is your personality then you are a fit for the information technology industry.

Jobs in computers and information technology are projected to grow 12 percent from 2018 to 2028. That is faster than the average for all occupations. Most likely jobs a felon can get in IT are the following:

  • Network support administrator: It’s like an IT ‘secretary.’ You run the computer system networks. You set up networks, install computer software, and troubleshoot different networks if they go down.
  • Database administrator (DBA): companies rely heavily on your skills. You run industry specific software. You organize and store critical data for the company, but you make it available to users and employees. You might be the one to actually create a database unique to the company.
  • Computer programmer: you develop and write codes for new software. You test and correct the code until it works smoothly. There are different coding languages. It is best if you know more than one. The most common ones are Python, Java, C++, JavaScript, HTML, and Ruby.
  • App developer: You would be hired to develop programs for customers on IPhone and Android. Developers also create gaming and entertainment apps.
  • Web developer: Simply put, you create and design websites. You create the visual design and the back-end: usability, functions, navigation, and layout.

A Fair Chance

Businesses, large and small, believe in second chances and promoting fair chance hiring practices. Companies are very encouraged when they hear success stories of felons turning their life around. So, if you haven’t already, connect with a reentry program. They are located in every state. Reentry programs can help connect you with resources like housing and family reunification and jobs in IT.

A good number of IT companies promote second chance hiring practice. Some of the companies include: Apple, Dell, AT&T, Facebook, Google, IBM, and Zebra Technologies.These are IT companies who have pledged to hire felons to do various jobs.  So an actual job in IT may be a very realistic goal.

Getting licensed or certified

What if you are not yet qualified for the job that you want? What if you need to get your foot in the door with a job requiring a license or certificate? In New York State you can obtain a Certificate of Relief or a Certificate of Good Conduct. This allows you to sit for licensing exams. You may still be required to appear before a special review board.

Before you start the process it’s a good idea to do a background check on yourself. This will help you practice responses for possible questions you might be asked. It will also help you be more clear minded about wrong information on your record.

The District of Columbia and the following states have laws that offer a pathway to removing occupational and employment barriers:

  • Arkansas
  • Connecticut
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Rhode Island
  • Tennessee
  • Vermont

Governors all over the country are enacting laws to remove barriers which would allow you access to occupational licensing. It’s called Fair Chance licensing reform.

Governor Jerry Brown of California signed AB 2138 in September of 2018. Licensing agencies only consider convictions that are directly related to the occupation and that occurred within seven years. The law applies to almost 40 licensing boards. These boards must provide you with clear written notice regarding their decisions.

The College Possibility

Say, you have your sights on an IT job requiring a four year degree. The U.S. Department of Education encourages colleges and universities to remove barriers to higher learning. More colleges and universities have adopted fair chance admission standards like “Beyond the Box.”  It allows criminal related questions to be asked after the admission decision or after you meet the academic criteria.

Community colleges have open enrollment policies. That means that they do not ask you to check a box or reveal your crime. In California and Texas, their public colleges and universities are becoming accessible for all qualified students. The Arizona State University system is doing the same. If your crime is revealed you get to provide context about your circumstances before it affects your admission.

The University of the District of Columbia Community College gives you a Student Success Specialist. This person meets with you before school starts. It’s like a one-on-one counselor who gives you advice and helps you with employment. Your specialist will also connect you with tutoring and other support systems.

Many colleges and universities use the Common Application. New York University(NYU) is one of them. NYU reviews your application first without knowledge of your crime. You still have to check the box. After you are admitted, a specially trained committee performs an assessment of your circumstances. NYU is also pushing for the Common Application to reconsider the criminal justice involvement question.

Seeking Remedy Through The Courts

If you are trying to get a job in IT and your felony record is stopping you there might be a path forward. You can get your record expunged. This means that your record is wiped clean as if you never committed the crime. You will be able to legally claim that you do not have a felony record. The exact process depends on the state where you live.

Expunged means your records are destroyed. You may be able to get your record sealed. However, if you were to commit another crime or be in suspicion of a crime, you record could be unsealed. A criminal defense attorney may be required for this action.

You will need to demonstrate initiative—that you are actively attempting to get back into society. This can be done by going to counseling, advancing in your education, and being gainfully employed.

Again, having completed some type of re-entry program is extremely helpful toward self improvement. It is also a way of demonstrating to the court that you are rehabilitated. Felons who have committed multiple felonies or rape can not get their records expunged.

In The Case of Florida

In Florida you can have your record expunged or sealed. However, state and federal law enforcement agencies will still have access to your records. Judges have access to your sealed records online.

If you are a defendant you might have to reveal your felony conviction. For example, if you are  trying to become a court appointed guardian.

Many employers will still have access to your sealed or expunged records.

In Florida, expunging or sealing a record does not update onto federal or private databases. Private companies can purchase the information from the counties and state.

Organizations Here To Help

There are programs all over the country to assist you.  For example, Cuyahoga Community College, in Cleveland, Ohio, has an Office of Legal Services. This office provides legal aid and some legal advice. They help students seal and expunge their criminal records. Other services they provide are:

  • Representation in court
  • Help with obtaining certifications for employment
  • Assist you in the job application process

San Jose State University(SJSU) heads up a Record Clearance Project(RCP). RCP services include presentations about getting your record expunged and your employment rights. They help you qualify for free LiveScan fingerprinting sessions to give you your “RAP” sheet. You will need this to start the expungement process. RCP does legal advice interviews. If your conviction must be dismissed by law, they will do the paperwork on the spot. RCP also will help you eliminate your court debt.

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