February 21, 2013
The Honorable Roger Dickinson
California State Assembly
State Capitol, Room 3126
Sacramento, CA 95814
Via electronic mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
RE: The Sentencing Project Endorses AB 218
Dear Assemblymember Dickinson:
The Sentencing Project is a national nonprofit organization that works for a fair and effective criminal justice system by promoting reforms in sentencing law and practice, and alternatives to incarceration. The Sentencing Project endorses AB 218, a measure that removes the question about an individual’s criminal history from city and county job applications while permitting a background check later in the hiring process. AB 218 will improve employment opportunities for people with criminal records, thus promoting rehabilitation and reducing recidivism.
California faces a significant challenge in addressing the employment needs of persons with felony convictions. If adopted, AB 218 would expand the applicant pool for city and county employers and improve public agencies’ prospects of selecting the best qualified candidates. Furthermore, it encourages individuals with criminal records to develop the skills needed to obtain public employment while eliminating the disincentives these individuals experience when applying for jobs.
The policy framework rooted in AB 218 reflects a smart on crime approach to the problem of public safety in our urban communities. Unemployment for persons with felony convictions is a serious problem faced by thousands of sentenced prisoners released from California prisons each year and the more than 398,000 persons under community supervision. Qualified job applicants are often plagued by prior criminal records that do not necessarily pose public safety risks to the positions for which they are applying. These potential applicants are often discouraged from applying because a “box” on job applications requires criminal history information that often leads employers to dismiss applicants at the outset.
AB 218 follows the lead of other states and jurisdictions that have removed the conviction history inquiry from initial job applications in public employment and delays a criminal background check until the later stages of the hiring process. States like Massachusetts, Connecticut, Minnesota and Hawaii have adopted measures to strengthen job opportunities for persons with felony convictions. At the local level, nearly 30 cities and counties, including Travis County (Texas), Edgewood County (Kentucky), and Alameda County (California) have adopted these fair hiring standards. Cities like Chicago, Baltimore, and Detroit have enacted these policies as well. In 2010, California also enacted this policy change when the State Personnel Board removed the question from job applications for state positions.
AB 218 extends the policy to county and city positions. The measure allows people with a conviction history to compete fairly for employment without compromising safety and security on the job. The bill also exempts those job positions for which the city or county is required by law to conduct a criminal background check.
The Sentencing Project encourages members of the California Assembly to vote in favor of AB 218, which carefully addresses the hiring practices for persons with criminal convictions and offers a policy that is consistent with public safety objectives.