The Most Hostile States For Felons

By Kathy Morris - Mar. 17, 2021

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According to the University of Georgia, 8% of Americans have been convicted of a felony.

Yet, some populations are disproportionately more likely to be convicted of a felony– and face the adverse consequences the heavy label carries. For example, an estimated 33% of the African-American male population is a felon.

For many felons their sentence continues long after their time is served. After release from prison, felons often struggle to find gainful employment and in some states can even be denied the right to vote.

While some states have passed laws preventing employers from enquiring about criminal record on job applications and made other headway in helping felons rejoin society, others have further to go.

To shine a light on the states where felons face the most discrimination and most hostile job market, we evaluated current laws in place. Sadly, some regions in particular offer particularly bleak prospects for felons.

The Most Hostile States For Felons

  1. Mississippi
  2. Georgia
  3. Tennessee
  4. Alabama
  5. Florida
  6. Virginia
  7. Kentucky
  8. Arizona
  9. Arkansas
  10. Texas

Southern states in particular have a long way to go when it comes to felon rights– and helping felons who have served their time reintegrate into society.

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How We Determined This

We ranked each state in 4 areas:

  • Ban the box law: Can employers ask on job application if potential employees have a criminal record?
  • Background check laws
  • Percent of felons who disenfranchised
  • Voting restrictions on felons

“Have you ever been convicted of a felony?” – for many workers this question means the worst thing they ever did will be one of the first things a new employer learns about them. It can also mean their application will end up in the trash bin. However, many states have passed laws to restrict- or eliminate entirely- the question from job applications. The less laws and protections passed, the more hostile job market for felons.

Of course, a job application isn’t the only place where a record can come up. Background checks also are an obstacle to felons. In most states a felony shows up on your background check for 7 years. We set out to find the exceptions built in around the 7 year rule— and where they are non-existent.

From there, we examined disenfranchisement. While in the past couple of years many states have made progress towards restoring felons voting rights, others haven’t or haven’t gone far now. Not only do voting rights empower workers, they can also be a good proxy for attitudes towards felons in general.

We used data from The Sentencing Project to find the percent of disenfranchised felons and general voting restrictions.

You can see a breakdown on the 10 most hostile states for felons below, or scroll to the bottom to see that states that offer felons the best prospects.

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1. Mississippi

mississippi class=

Ban the box law?: No Law
% Disenfranchised Felons: 11
Voting Restrictions:Prison, parole, probation

Mississippi is the most hostile state for felons seeking employment. 11% of felons in Mississippi are disenfranchised, helped by the fact that those with a felony are unable to vote even when they are on probation. Yet, equally as problematic, they face obstacles due to their past at every stage of the job hunt.

2. Georgia

georgia class=

Ban the box law?: No Law
% Disenfranchised Felons: 10
Voting Restrictions:Prison Parole

“Have you ever been convicted of a felony?” In Georgia, many felons see this question on a job application and know their chance of getting a job aren’t looking so great. Considering felon unemployment is estimated to be 7 times higher than non-felons, if Georgia bans this question they could give felons in the peach state a better chance of getting their lives back on track.

3. Tennessee

tennessee class=

Ban the box law?: No Law
% Disenfranchised Felons: 9
Voting Restrictions:Prison, parole, probation

In 3rd place is Tennessee. Tennessee restricts felons from voting while prison, on parole, and on probation. No doubt this contributes to the 9% of felons who are unable to vote.

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4. Alabama

alabama class=

Ban the box law?: No Law
% Disenfranchised Felons: 9
Voting Restrictions:Prison, parole, probation, post-sentence

Alabama is a state that throws the book at felons– even after their sentence has been served. Alabama is one of two states to restrict felons from voting post-sentence. This is paired with no ban-the-box laws or background exclusions that fit job seeking felons hard.

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5. Florida

florida class=

Ban the box law?: No Law
% Disenfranchised Felons: 8
Voting Restrictions:Prison, parole, probation

While Florida has recently made some progress on voting rights for felons, they still fall short of other states when it comes to giving felons a second chance.

class="fancy">6. Virginia

virginia class=

Ban the box law?: No Law
% Disenfranchised Felons: 6
Voting Restrictions:Prison, parole, probation

While some states make it illegal to do a background check for low paying jobs, in Virginia even a job at McDonalds is free to check a prospective employee’s criminal record with no exceptions.

class="fancy">6. Kentucky

kentucky class=

Ban the box law?: No Law
% Disenfranchised Felons: 6
Voting Restrictions:Prison, parole, probation

6% of felons are disenfranchised in Kentucky. However 100% of felons who have been convicted in the past 7 years have to check “yes, I have been convicted of a felony” if asked on an application.

class="fancy">8. Arizona

arizona class=

Ban the box law?: No Law
% Disenfranchised Felons: 5
Voting Restrictions:Prison, parole, probation, post-sentence

Arizona, along with Alabama, restricts some felons from voting post-sentence. Unsurprisingly, this rigid attitude is also reflected in their workplace laws towards felons.

class="fancy">9. Arkansas

arkansas class=

Ban the box law?: No Law
% Disenfranchised Felons: 4
Voting Restrictions:Prison, parole, probation

In 9th place is Arkansas. Arkansas has no background exclusions for felons and employers are free to enquire about criminal status on job applications.

class="fancy">10. Texas

texas class=

Ban the box law?: No Law
% Disenfranchised Felons: 3
Voting Restrictions:Prison Parole

In 10th place, while Texas has some headway over the 9 previous states, it still has far to go. Job seekers with a felony in Texas may be forced to explain their record before they even meet with a prospective employer in person.

class="fancy">Getting A Job Is Crucial For Felons Looking To Reintegrate into Society

These ten states have strong shortcomings when it comes to helping felons get back on their feet.

Overall, we only analyzed four areas, and other aspects such as job training programs, education, and assistance are also important. However, each of these four areas is important and illustrates the broad differences in available opportunity.

While only 3% of Texans are disenfranchised- that is 3% more than Massachusetts. Similarly, the tiny box that all the above states allow can make a big difference when it comes to landing a job and being a contributing member of society who is able to support themselves and their family.

These differences matter.

You can see the full list of all states, and which ones have the most opportunity below:

State Ban the box law? % Disenfranchised Felons Voting Restrictions
1 Mississippi No Law 10.6 Prison, parole, amp; probation No Background Exceptions
2 Georgia No Law 10.0 Prison amp; Parole No Background Exceptions
3 Tennessee No Law 9.1 Prison, parole, amp; probation No Background Exceptions
4 Alabama No Law 8.9 Prison, parole, probation, amp; post-sentence No Background Exceptions
5 Florida No Law 7.7 Prison, parole, amp; probation No Background Exceptions
6 Virginia No Law 6.0 Prison, parole, amp; probation No Background Exceptions
7 Kentucky No Law 5.9 Prison, parole, amp; probation No Background Exceptions
8 Arizona No Law 4.9 Prison, parole, probation, amp; post-sentence No Background Exceptions
9 Arkansas No Law 4.0 Prison, parole, amp; probation No Background Exceptions
10 Texas No Law 2.8 Prison amp; Parole No Background Exceptions
11 Idaho No Law 2.7 Prison amp; Parole No Background Exceptions
12 Louisiana No Law 2.2 Prison only No Background Exceptions
13 Wyoming No Law 2.6 Prison, parole, amp; probation No Background Exceptions
14 South Dakota No Law 2.1 Prison amp; Parole No Background Exceptions
15 Missouri No Law 2.1 Prison amp; Parole No Background Exceptions
16 Montana No Law 1.7 No restrictions No Salary Cap
16 Oklahoma No Law 2.0 Prison amp; Parole No Background Exceptions
18 Nebraska No Law 1.7 Prison, parole, amp; probation No Background Exceptions
19 Delaware No Law 1.6 Prison, parole, amp; probation No Background Exceptions
19 Wisconsin No Law 1.6 Prison amp; Parole No Background Exceptions
21 Iowa No Law 1.5 Prison, parole, amp; probation No Background Exceptions
22 West Virginia No Law 1.2 Prison amp; Parole No Background Exceptions
23 South Carolina No Law 1.2 Prison amp; Parole No Background Exceptions
24 North Carolina No Law 1.1 Prison amp; Parole No Background Exceptions
25 Alaska No Law 1.0 Prison, parole, amp; probation No Background Exceptions
25 Kansas No Law 1.0 Prison amp; Parole No Background Exceptions
27 Indiana No Law 0.6 No restrictions No Background Exceptions
27 Nevada No Law 0.7 No restrictions $20,000 per year salary cap
29 Ohio No Law 0.6 No restrictions No Background Exceptions
30 Pennsylvania No Law 0.5 No restrictions No Background Exceptions
31 Maryland No Law 0.4 No restrictions $20,000 per year salary cap
32 Utah No Law 0.4 No restrictions No Background Exceptions
33 North Dakota No Law 0.3 No restrictions No Background Exceptions
34 New Hampshire No Law 0.3 No restrictions No Background Exceptions
34 New York No Law 0.3 Prison only $25,000 per year salary cap
36 Maine No Law 0.0 No restrictions No Background Exceptions
37 Minnesota Law 1.6 Prison amp; Parole No Background Exceptions
38 New Mexico Law 1.2 Prison amp; Parole $20,000 per year salary cap
39 California Law 1.0 Prison amp; Parole No Background Exceptions
40 Connecticut Law 0.8 Prison amp; Parole No Background Exceptions
40 Washington Law 0.9 Prison amp; Parole $20,000 per year salary cap
42 Colorado Law 0.6 Prison only $75,000 per year salary cap
42 Oregon Law 0.5 No restrictions No Background Exceptions
44 Michigan Law 0.5 No restrictions No Background Exceptions
45 Hawaii Law 0.5 Prison only No Background Exceptions
46 Illinois Law 0.4 No restrictions No Background Exceptions
47 New Jersey Law 0.3 No restrictions No Background Exceptions
47 Rhode Island Law 0.3 No restrictions No Background Exceptions
49 Massachusetts Law 0.2 No restrictions No Background Exceptions
50 Vermont Law 0.0 No restrictions No Background Exceptions

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Author

Kathy Morris

Kathy is the head of content at Zippia with a knack for engaging audiences. Prior to joining Zippia, Kathy worked at Gateway Blend growing audiences across diverse brands. She graduated from Troy University with a degree in Social Science Education.

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