The Ross Harris Trial: What We Can Learn About Employment Prospects for Felons

May 18, 2016

These days, all eyes are on Ross Harris— or the man who left his young son to die alone in a broiling hot SUV. Though Ross Harris’s son’s death is tragic, The Ross Harris Trial is an example of how horrible cases can highlight important issues.

One of those issues is the impact that a stay in a penal institution can have on the rest of a person’s life. Right now, the Ross Harris Trial has just completed the jury selection stage. It has been difficult to find jurors that lack bias because of how widely publicized the case has been made. The facts are shocking: Ross Harris left his twenty two month son to die of heatstroke and then claimed he had forgotten him. The case for Harris looks even worse due to the fact that while his young son was dying in agony, he was messaging sexual content to six women at once.

Now the court must decide whether Harris forgot to take his son to daycare, or whether this was a deliberately researched and designed murder. Attorneys for Harris insist that the child’s death was an accident. Witnesses have reported his horror and grief upon realizing his terrible mistake. Yet there are facts that undermine this explanation.

His internet searches revealed that he had looked at sites devoted to living a child free life, and that in the days prior to the child’s death, he visited prostitutes. The charges against Harris include Malice Murder, Felony Murder, and Cruelty to Children in the First Degree on the grounds that he maliciously caused Cooper Harris cruel and excessive pain. He is also charged with exchanging sexual text messages with a minor.

The charges state that the “…accused did request that a minor female…provide a photograph and visual medium involving a lewd exhibition of her genital and pubic area…”. Ross is being charged with the Dissemination of Pornography to Minors, as the “[a]ccused did knowingly disseminate and furnish a minor female printed matter containing explicit and detailed verbal descriptions and narrative accounts of sexual excitement and sexual conduct.”

It is necessary to note that despite the horrific nature of his son’s death, he does not face the threat of a death penalty. Yet, whatever the outcome of the case, Harris is undoubtedly going to be in jail for a very long time. When he does eventually emerge and tries to rebuild a normal life of full employment— he will face almost insurmountable odds. Not only will his face be recognizable (as it’s been screened across America for days), the gruesome nature of his son’s death and the sexually unpleasant activities he was engaging in whilst his son was dying have further ruined his reputation. This will not make him an attractive candidate for employment.

America has a problem with improving the employment prospects of convicted felons. On the majority of job applications, there is a box asking whether a candidate has ever been convicted of a crime. Ticking yes is likely to disqualify candidates. Ex-cons have a choice: They can be truthful or lie. Telling the truth increases their chance of missing out on an employment opportunity.

That said, Koch industries (one of the country’s major companies) has initiated the “ban the box” movement. This movement is a pledge to cease asking prospective candidates about their convictions. The power of this company has the potential to improve employment prospects for millions for former convicts, who, without employment, are likely to fall back into crime.

Whether Ross Harris is a determined murderer, or simply a parent who made a terrible mistake, his prospects for employment and for life look grim indeed.

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