Access to opportunities is the key for economic and social success in America. Many people affected by the criminal law system miss out on the opportunities to build a successful life, family, or community.
For perspective, let’s start with a bit of history. In the mid-1960s, workplaces began to implement affirmative action and equal employment opportunity laws. diversity trainingsto educate employees about working in an inclusive space. These laws, which are a result of the civil rights movement created the conditions for increasing employment opportunities and promoting representation among Black Americans.
Fast forward to the summer 2020 and you will see a similar response in this instance to conversations about race. corporate America’s reactionBlack Lives Matter protests. Enter the industry buzzword, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), which has been echoed by every corporation, agency, and organization in the United States. While DEI efforts are focused on improving hiring practices, creating a better environment for Black and Brown employees, the DEI efforts fail to take into account the effects of the criminal legal systems. those very communities.
It’s no secret that the criminal legal system disproportionately impacts Black and Brown communities. Black people make up 40 percent of all incarcerated Americans, but they only account for 40%. 13 percentApproximately 5% of the U.S. total population. People with criminal convictions still have barriers and collateral consequences, which can make it difficult for them to find employment, affordable housing, or attend college.
I’ve worked in corporate America for many years while serving on the Board of College & Community FellowshipCCF is an organization that supports women and families most affected by the criminal justice system. Through my work with CCF, I’ve seen the true potential, dedication and value of people with criminal convictions in the workforce. People directly affected by the criminal legal system are aware of the unique barriers they face in gaining employment. That’s why they are willing to work harder and go above and beyond expectations when afforded the opportunity.
This is evident in the stories of CCF alumni. They thrive when they have the chance to build a career and provide for their families. Many people struggle to find employment after earning their degrees due to their criminal convictions.
Victoria Roberts is currently the director of Human Trafficking Programs for Safe Center Long Island. In 2014, she was appointed the Nassau County reentry coordinator. She also serves as the HUB facility presenter for Department of Criminal Justice Services. In this role, she worked closely alongside the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision Officers. She also worked with parole officers and a social service officer. They both said that she would make an excellent parole officer and encouraged the young woman to register for the exam.
Only after she had read the requirements for the registration page did she realize that her felony conviction would prevent her from being eligible. “I can supervise parole officers but I can’t work as a parole officer,” she said. Instead, she applied for a limited permit to practise and worked towards a Licensed Master of Social Work. She was again faced with difficulties regarding her felony conviction. Her application was in limbo for several months, and she missed out on many opportunities to support herself and others.
“We weren’t all perfect in any way — but because we face stereotypes from media and other sources, employers don’t get to know the people behind the felony convictions.”
Victoria continues to help people who come home from prison. She refers them to job opportunities, provides essential resources, and helps them reintegrate in our ever-changing world. “When I refer justice-involved people to job opportunities around the community, employers always ask me, ‘Do you have any more of them?’” She said she works so hard with this community because she truly believes, “If we change this generation every generation following will be changed.”
And this isn’t only a problem in government; it exists across industries, even as corporations make concerted efforts to diversify their hiring processes. The fact is that many employers and hiring managers are unclear about their institution’s policies or perspective on hiring those with criminal convictions. They are also unawareFind out what resources are available to hire and work with this population.
Increased employment opportunities will help people who are directly impacted or impacted by criminal law system. This will improve social mobility and access to opportunities for all communities, especially those that are marginalized or most directly affected by criminal legal system. Investing in people with criminal records is a sign that you are committed to diversity, racial equity, and inclusion. Governments, corporations, and organizations have the chance to increase their workforce and to engage a large, untapped population that is highly skilled and ready to work.
Employers who advertise their racial equity campaigns may still not have included criminal convictions in the recruitment. One in threeA criminal record is a record that a person has in the United States. They can be minor records like misdemeanors, arrests without conviction, and more serious records like felony convictions. This creates barriers that will prevent people from having the opportunity to succeed in life. Employers can’t afford to exclude this large section of the population. They also lose out on highly-qualified workers and reduce the effectiveness of diversity and racial equity initiatives.
Simply put, working with this group is not controversial. To date, 37 states and the District of ColumbiaEmployers are prohibited from asking about criminal records on job applications.
But it’s not just up to lawmakers. Employers who are serious about racial equality and diversity in hiring should include people directly affected by the criminal justice system in their hiring practices. It’s a direct reflection of their dedication to diversity and racial equity.