Can A Felon Work For The Government?

When most felons leave prison, they hope to never again have dealings with the authorities. So it may come as a surprise to find that some actually consider finding jobs in government.

Finding gainful employment is one of the biggest challenges felons experience upon release. Many employers are reluctant to trust someone who has engaged in criminal activity.

They struggle with low paying jobs, even if they are better qualified. For those that apply widely, there is a certain consideration that pops into the mind. Can a felon work for the government?

Can A Felon Work For The Government

Governments often rank amongst the biggest employers in the world. The services they provide require them to have a large workforce with diverse capabilities.

With the many opportunities available during recruitment, it is no surprise that this employer should be desirable. The federal government is a great place to pursue a career that interests you.

Can A Felon Work For The Federal Government?

According to the Office of Personnel Management(OPM), the government can hire felons. However, some restrictions may apply depending on the nature of the job and crime convicted.

It is important to note that a federal job offers several great perks. The first is that of job security. Even in a volatile economy, government employees are not often sacked or retrenched.

Federal jobs also tend to come with very competitive salaries with steady increments. It is why many that join rarely opt to leave for the private sector. Federal employees also enjoy generous vacation and sick pay terms.

There is also access to a wide variety of health care plans. With the most generous terms kicking in after retirement. Retirement benefits schemes are also quite lucrative with annuities, social security benefits, and 401(k)-type investment plans.

So in answer to our earlier question, yes, a felon can work for the government. But terms do apply. Some certain statutes and laws can forbid hiring.

Let’s look at the particular scenarios when this can happen.

Debarment from Government Service

Can A Felon Work For The Government Debarment

This refers to certain conditions that would make it impossible for the government to hire a felon. As said, it could be due to the nature of the crime and related duties of the job. It could also be due to certain laws prohibiting the same.

For instance, federal employment can be denied to anyone convicted of treasonous acts. Prohibitions are also placed on those convicted of domestic violence under federal or state law. They may not be employed for positions that involve the use or handling of firearms.

Certain financial misconduct can also hinder top-secret clearance, making it impossible to attain certain positions. Offenses such as tax evasion, check fraud, and embezzlement are amongst those that can get an application denied.

Laws such as the Smith amendment can also affect federal employment. This law prevents the Department of Defense from granting or renewing security clearance to those convicted of felonies.

Some laws may also prohibit federal employment until certain periods have passed since the completion of sentencing.

The Ban-The-Box Movement

This government initiative seeks to have employers remove questions on criminal history when applying for jobs. This would then allow the employers to make a fairer evaluation of the candidate. Before making a hiring decision.

Employers still reserve the right to undertake background checks as a condition of employment.

The goal of the initiative is to give felons a fairer chance at employment. This movement has seen numerous private companies sign-on.

It has helped many felons make a better impression on potential employers. Before any criminal past comes into the evaluation.

The Hiring Process

Can A Felon Work For The Government Proccess

You can apply for most federal jobs online. You will need to first create an account with

Once you have created a profile, you can then choose to explore all available federal jobs. Alternatively, you can automate your search.

You can use search filters to narrow your search. Once you identify suitable jobs, click through to review your eligibility. Check on the qualifications required and if there are disqualifiers.

Read the ‘How To Apply’ section before tapping on the ‘Apply’ button. Certain personal information may be requested and attachment of resume and supporting documents. You may also need to answer eligibility questions and complete an occupational questionnaire.

Depending on the position, the number and type of questions may vary. It can also depend on the level of security clearance required.

Once you complete these submissions, check back on the ‘Application’ section of your account. There should be an indication the hiring agency has received it. You can check back here later to review the status of your application.

Those that are highest qualified will have their applications forwarded for interviews. Interviews may be undertaken on phone, in-person, or with a panel. You may also need to undergo several rounds of interviews.

Criminal history will not have been queried thus far. If, however, you succeed and receive a job offer, it will be conditional. You will need to clear a background check.

Candidates are asked to complete a Declaration of Federal Employment (OF 306). They then sign off on the background check.

This does not mean you have to have a clean record. But as said, the crimes should not conflict with the duties of the post. And they must not subject you to debarment.

How Federal Agencies Access Candidates

Can A Felon Work For The Government How

When hiring, federal agencies will consider multiple factors, including:

  • Personality traits and conduct since release
  • Nature and severity of the crime committed
  • Conflicts between the duties of the position and criminal conduct
  • Conflicts between crime and interests of national security
  • Duration lapsed since conviction
  • Rehabilitation efforts

Focusing on these areas will be the biggest help when applying for a federal job.


Just as with private-sector jobs, there are no assurances that one will get hired. Even with companies that support Ban-The-Box and the Fair Chances Business Pledge.

Always review the job requirements and duties of the position. Skip the application if in conflict with the offense you were convicted of. You can also check the job site to see if the position has any disqualifiers.

Keep in mind that felons are typically locked out of positions that are law enforcement or justice-related. It is all about applying for the right job or career when the opportunity arises.

Remember that the government also factors in how well you have reintegrated back into society. Take whatever steps possible to demonstrate you have reformed. Every application will ultimately be judged on a case-to-case basis.

Family and friends should also be supportive of any felon trying to find decent employment. Not only will it reduce the risk of recidivism, but it also builds a better society. Felons can become law-abiding and contributing taxpayers that are no longer a burden to the community.

To maximize your chances, apply to as many jobs you qualify for in both public and private sectors.

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