Are you considering hiring a felon? Felons have a hard time finding jobs, so if you are in a position to help one out you can actually be directly helping society. Just make sure you cover your bases legally and ethically.
First of all, congratulations - at least you realized before making this important hire that you are dealing with a felon. A lot of companies don't do any research and accidentally hire felons without any knowledge - this can create an unsafe work place for both the felon and the felon's co-workers.
The first thing you need to determine is exactly what the conviction is for. Understand the legal aspects surrounding the crime and try to gather as much information as possible before moving forward. It is a good idea to talk to a lawyer and possibly even the felon's probation/parole officer.
Does the crime that the person has been convicted of relate to the job you are hiring them for? For instance, somebody with forgery and embezzlement charges shouldn't be hired in an accounting position.
Also, you should do a full background check to make sure they have disclosed all convictions honestly. As much as you might trust somebody, this is definitely something you should do just to make sure you understand the extent of their criminal record.
To be bonded?
If you require that employees be bonded this can be a great way to limit exposure when hiring somebody with a criminal history. There is even a government program that will guarantee a bond up to $10,000 if it is required as a condition of employment.
Why all the fuss?
Some people don't understand why they should do such thorough research before hiring a felon. The fact of the matter is that a criminal record imposes a significant risk that somebody will be dishonest when they are dealing with you as an employer. Also, if the felon is working directly with customers and they do something bad to them, you might be legally liable if the customer can prove that you put them in the situation.
However, if you are able to adequately vet a job candidate who happens to have a felony you can benefit by getting a hard worker at a below-market wage, loyalty (most felons won't willfully leave a steady job) and the benefit of knowing that you are helping keep somebody away from a life of crime.
How does hiring a felon help society?
Once somebody has a felony on their record they generally become untouchable by most employers. Without any job prospects many of them turn back to the life of crime that they are accustomed to living in.
By hiring a felon you are giving them hope that they can move on and change themselves for the better. Incarcerating and monitoring criminals is expensive - by helping break this vicious cycle you are helping the public at large and possibly changing the felon and his/her family's life permanently.