Nearly eight million Californians – disproportionately people of color and low-income – have a conviction or arrest record that can show up on an employment background check.
Often, and unfairly, an individual’s employment prospects are over before they start because they are required to check a box on a job application indicating criminal history.
How can formerly incarcerated individuals contribute to San Diego’s economy and society upon re-entry if we don’t provide them with opportunities for employment?
In a few days, the California Fair Chance Act will help ensure that formerly incarcerated Californians are considered for employment based on their qualifications and work experience, rather than being rejected by employers at the beginning because of a checked box.
Beginning January 1, the new ‘Ban the Box’ law ensures California private-sector employers fairly consider job applicants with a criminal record by delaying a request for information about conviction history or a background check until a conditional offer is made. California public sector employers have had this requirements since 2013. California now joins 30 other states that ban the box on employment applications.
Economic and Social Impact
The Fair Chance Act not only benefits those with criminal records. It’s a win for employers, too.
Recent studies show that putting this population back to work reduces recidivism and employee turnover while estimating a nearly $80 billion boost to the U.S. gross national product. Beyond economic benefits, the law is expected to have positive influences on public safety, homelessness and other societal challenges facing us today.
Here in San Diego, efforts to reduce recidivism have targeted employment as a key strategy.
A federally funded program managed by the San Diego Workforce Partnership (SDWP) was awarded one of 19 grants across the nation from the U. S. Department of Labor to establish job centers inside the East Mesa Re-Entry Facility and the Las Colinas Detention Facility. According to SDWP President and CEO, Peter Callstrom, 700 individuals have completed the program. Among that group, recidivism has dropped from around 50 percent to 8 percent.
The San Diego Foundation works with many philanthropists who understand the economic impact of putting formerly incarcerated individuals back to work. Our generous donors are committed to augmenting public funding, which is available but not nearly enough, to support organizations such as SDWP, Center for Employment Opportunities and Second Chance.
Additionally, The San Diego Foundation Center for Civic Engagement public programs have explored the root challenges of recidivism. Employment and education have been highlighted as the most significant challenges facing individuals released from prison.
The Fair Chance Act is a large step in the right direction to help re-integrate those with criminal records into society and increase the number of felon-friendly employers in our region.
There is no better time than the holidays to demonstrate respect and compassion. Please keep vulnerable populations in mind and provide support for them as we enter the new year.
Live WELL Show: Reducing Recidivism in California
I recently hosted a Live WELL Facebook Live Show with special guests to take a deeper dive into the California Fair Chance Act and its expected impact.
Watch the video below to hear insights from SDWP President and CEO Peter Callstrom, Center for Employment Opportunities San Diego County Director, Robert Smith, and National Employment Law Project Staff Attorney, Phil Hernandez.
I encourage you to share the link with your networks to increase awareness. May 2018 bring joy and peace to you and your family.
About Kathlyn Mead
President and CEO of The San Diego Foundation, Kathlyn Mead has been actively involved in community throughout her career. National Medical Fellowships honored Kathlyn with its 2015 Leadership in Healthcare award. Charles R. Drew University recognized her commitment to community service with its 2011 Medal of Honor. Mead was named a 2008 Woman of Distinction by the University of Southern California, received San Diego’s 2004 KGTV-10 News Organizational Leadership Award, and is also a 2003 YWCA of San Diego TWIN awardee.