From the Executive Summary of the Rosenberg Foundation report Jobs for All:
While there are many reasons for recidivism, research shows that employment is one of the most significant factors in reducing the number of people with prior records who return to prison or jail, helping them reclaim their lives and reintegrate into society.
Yet, for people with records, finding work is an enormous challenge. Hiring practices such as routine criminal background checks result in discrimination against the more than one in four Californians who have an arrest or conviction in their past, despite the fact that the vast majority of those job-seekers have not recently served time.
Their arrests or convictions may be decades old, yet they find themselves forever branded by their records, struggling to land work, their hopes for the future shackled by their past. Beyond background checks, a broad array of other statutory and administrative roadblocks systematically exclude their entry into the workforce and deny them access to critical services that could ease their transition, such as student loans, food stamps and housing subsidies.
Additionally, stigma among employers remains a substantial barrier for all people with records, and it has an immensely disproportionate impact on people of color. At its core, this issue is also about racial justice. African Americans and Latinos, who currently make up nearly 70 percent of California’s prisoners and parolees, have been disproportionately targeted and penalized by the criminal justice system. Their systemic disenfranchisement tears apart generations of families and entire communities.
The population of people with prior records represents too great a wave of human potential to leave behind, and comes at too great an economic cost to California and the country. Eliminating barriers to employment for formerly incarcerated people will benefit all of us by reducing recidivism and promoting public safety, cutting costs to taxpayers, and increasing the economic contributions of formerly incarcerated people.
In recent years, thanks to the leadership of formerly incarcerated people, efforts to reduce barriers to employment for people with past convictions have been gaining momentum across the country and within California. In passing Proposition 47 by a wide margin in 2014, Californians made clear that they were ready to break from decades of tough on crime policies that have contributed to escalating incarceration, fiscal crises and broken communities. Advocates, faith groups, private and public sector leaders, and policymakers from both sides of the aisle have championed a new wave of smart on crime policies and have made ending recidivism a public priority.
Around the country, a number of landmark reentry employment reforms have garnered support from diverse stakeholders, including elected officials from across the political spectrum, philanthropy, labor unions and major corporations. These reforms include:
Federal, state and local fair chance hiring policies and standards, including Ban the Box, which restrict the way that criminal history information is requested and considered by employers and licensing agencies;
Expansion of “clean slate” initiatives that help people lawfully expunge or otherwise seal their records;
Increased investment in educational programs for currently and formerly incarcerated students; and
Formal commitments by workforce development providers and labor unions to open their hiring and job training programs to people with past convictions. In addition, some leading companies are adopting hiring policies designed to open the door to job applicants from reentry populations.
With tremendous progress over the past few years, much works remains to be done at all levels. The need for reentry employment reforms remains undiminished for many people across the state and the nation.
This report proposes 10 priority actions to continue to advance equal opportunities for people with past convictions:
1. Expand fair chance hiring policies in the private sector to scale job opportunities for people with criminal records;
2. Educate employers about liability and consider increasing liability protections for employers as an incentive to gain support for stronger fair chance hiring policies;
3. Enforce existing fair chance hiring, civil rights and consumer laws, and curb abuses in the background check industry to protect people with records;
4. Fully implement Proposition 47 and other criminal justice reforms to open opportunities on a large scale and shrink the number of people suffering felony convictions in the future;
5. Expand incentives for employers to hire people with past convictions;
6. Remove statutory and regulatory employment barriers and expand existing expungement remedies to make more occupations available to people with records;
7. Increase skills training for expanding job sectors so people with records can compete in today’s job market;
8. Expand public and private investment in education pipelines that begin in prisons and jails and continue after release;
9. Improve access to housing, food and other essential services for people recently released from jail or prison; and
10. Leverage private resources to advance policy reform, support advocates, combat stigma and raise awareness.
Both the private and public sectors can expand the gains that have been achieved to date by pressing for additional reforms and practices that can fill critical gaps in the employment pipeline. Doing so will help thousands of people ?nd work and make meaningful, lasting contributions to their communities.
Read the full report here.