Document Type


Publication Date



In Copyright


Existing work on ex-offenders’ access to military employment too narrowly represents both the Armed Forces’ and the public’s interests in the issue. This Article proposes to shift the conversation from ex-offenders’ usefulness to the Armed Forces to the reciprocal responsibilities and benefits involved for these potential recruits, the military, and society at large. Part One reviews the rules, policies, and procedures governing the “moral waivers” that allow thousands of individuals with criminal histories to enlist each year, and it shows that that the waiver system nonetheless often fails to detect the criminal backgrounds of many recruits. Part Two reviews some of the practical, social, and political considerations that do and should inform the design and implementation of waiver policy: characteristics of the recruit pool; ex-offenders’ job performance, retention rates, and attrition levels; their difficulties finding employment; unemployment’s predictable effect on recidivism; and the social advantages of military service in this population. The Article concludes that a recruitment strategy currently pursued though winks and nods should be approached more forthrightly, and perhaps more vigorously, for the good of both civil society and the Armed Forces.

Publication Title

University of Miami Law Review

First Page


Last Page