Hiring Criminals II: Hiring Convicts to Process Sensitive Data

Inmates have access to sensitive data

Inmates have access to sensitive data

As a follow-on to our recent blog on the use of criminal records in employment decisions, Must U.S. Employers Hire Criminals?, I thought that it might be interesting to consider a new New York law. The purpose of the new law is to prohibit outsourcing work to inmates of correctional facilities where the positions—wait for it—would involve accessing, collecting or processing personal social security numbers.

So to those of you who were skeptical about the impact of the EEOC’s guidance as it might serve to restrict or inhibit the use of prior criminal records in hiring decisions (and several of you spoke to me about this concern), you are clearly behind the times. Why worry about hiring ex-cons when it’s the current convicts who have access to your sensitive data?

Where Convicts Can Still Handle Social Security Numbers

To the best of my knowledge, New York is the only state to have passed such a law, but there is still a small window of opportunity as it takes effect on November 12, 2012. Furthermore, it’s possible that prisons in at least eight states  let inmates work at jobs that give them access to social security numbers and other personal information for the public:

  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Kansas
  • Nebraska
  • Oklahoma
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • West Virginia

The good news is that their work often involves entering and processing data on unimportant documents such as student transcripts, tax files, and health care and labor claims forms.

Other states may be taking ad hoc action, such as Maryland where the corrections division that provides inmate labor recently backed out of a data entry contract with the health department after state auditors found that prisoners had access to some patients’ personal information (which had supposedly been redacted from documents, but occasionally wasn’t).

Thank you to Katharine H. Parker & Daniel L. Saperstein of the excellent law firm of Proskauer for their tip of the hat to the new New York law:  New N.Y. Law Prohibits Hiring of Inmates for Positions with Access to Social Security Numbers.


About Ann Longmore

Ann is Executive Vice President of Willis' Executive Risks practice. Based in New York, she has been with the compa…
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