More than 1 in 5 adults in the United States has a criminal record, and those with criminal records often cannot find a job because they are perceived as a risky hire. The truth is that many people with a criminal record are no more likely to commit a crime than people without a record. Many criminal records were a result of minor offenses, or offenses committed a long time ago. The Fortune Society wanted a poster that told the stories of formerly incarcerated people and the difficulties they face when trying to reenter the workforce, so they teamed up with CUP and designer Sara McKay as a part of CUP’s Making Policy Public program to create Barriers to Reentry.

Barriers to Reentry explains Article 23-A of New York’s Corrections Law, which requires employers to consider the criminal record of a potential employee in the context of other factors – like how old they were when the offence occurred, or whether the offence is relevant to the job duties. It is in fact illegal to not hire someone only because of a criminal record. 

This year, the Fortune Society successfully advocated for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to release an updated and improved set of guidelines for employers on the use of criminal background checks in hiring. CUP is proud to say that Barriers to Reentry was a critical tool in their year-long advocacy campaign. Congratulations to The Fortune Society!

Get your own copy here!

Resources & Links

The Fortune Society supports a broad array of alternative-to-incarceration and reentry initiatives for people with criminal records.

Making Policy Public is a program of the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP). CUP partners with policy advocates and graphic designers to produce foldout posters that explain complicated policy issues, like this one.

Funding Support

Support for this project was provided by New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA) and the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs.

Special Thanks

Ayça Akin, Lise Brenner, Sasha Charlemagne, and John Olmo.


  • CUP
  • Project Leads
  • John Mangin
  • Rosten Woo

  • Project Support
  • Valeria Mogilevich
  • The Fortune Society
  • Advocacy Partner
  • Jessica Colter
  • Glenn E. Martin
  • Designer
  • Sara McKay
  • Photographer
  • Fiona Aboud


Making Policy Public
  • MAS Context
  • July 01, 2012

A multi-page feature from MAS Context’s special issue on “Communication.”