For life, liberty, and the pursuit of justice...


Sunday, February 19, 2017

Great Read - a True Story That Offers Hope

I got a copy of Shaka Senghor's book, Writing my Wrongs, for Christmas. I just could not put it down! What an amazing and insightful story of his journey into the drug trade, incarceration, faith, hope, and redemption.  I highly recommend reading his book, listening to his Ted Talk, and going to his website to learn more. 

Helping Others

Sometimes the realities of dealing with a loved one who is incarcerated or watching what is happening to those around us can be overwhelming. There are many organizations out there who can offer help and hope. The internet is full of resources, as well as local non-profits and faith-based organizations.  Reach out today.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Better Way to Fight Recidivism

Set a man up for a modicum of success, and he might just make a better life for himself.

As many as two-thirds of the 650,000 inmates released from prisons and jails in the United States each year will be re-arrested within three years. America Works is trying to change that.

A new report from the Manhattan Institute looks at AW’s successful approach, which centers around providing more “enhanced job-readiness training and job-search assistance” to nonviolent offenders than the typical re-entry program does. If the welfare-reform successes of the ’90s taught us anything, it’s that the best welfare program is a job. By rapidly attaching such offenders to work, AW aims to minimize the chance that they’ll re-offend later.

As the report puts it:  America Works is condensed into an intense one- or two-week period. It uses a tough-love approach, stressing interpersonal communication and such “soft” skills as time and anger management. It places special attention on teaching practical skills that many former inmates never acquired, such as résumé preparation, search strategies, and interview techniques. And it uses a network of employers, who are open to hiring ex-offenders and with whom it has long-term relationships, to place clients. Its goal is not only to help former inmates find jobs but also to keep jobs, and it provides follow-up services for six months. In 2005, the program provided job-readiness classes to 1,000 ex-offenders, placing 700 in jobs.

CLICK THE LINK BELOW TO READ THE REST OF THIS VALUABLE ARTICLE BY
— Kathryn Jean Lopez - senior fellow at the National Review Institute, editor-at-large of National Review Online, and founding director of Catholic Voices USA. 

 

Friday, March 6, 2015

States Ban the Box: Removing Barriers to Work for People with Criminal Records

Borrowed from http://csgjusticecenter.org/reentry/posts/states-ban-the-box-removing-barriers-to-work-for-people-with-criminal-records-2/

By Liam Julian
Around 65 million Americans of working age have criminal records. Finding a job isn’t easy for anyone, but it’s especially difficult for them. Sometimes, formerly incarcerated individuals simply lack the knowledge and skills that would make them employable; other times, they are barred from filling certain jobs by federal or state laws. But in many instances, employers simply are reluctant to hire people with criminal records and eliminate such applicants from consideration before even reviewing their qualifications.

“The question for me,” said Nebraska state Sen. Bill Avery, “was why go to the expense and effort of preparing prisoners for jobs on the outside when we have barriers that impede their ability to even be considered for employment. ‘Ban the Box’ was an important effort to remove one of those barriers.”
“Ban the Box.” It’s a catchy phrase describing a national political movement that seeks to ensure job applicants with criminal records can show a potential employer their qualifications before revealing their criminal histories. “Box” refers to the job application checkbox that people with criminal records are asked to tick.

State Actions

Avery introduced Nebraska’s Ban the Box legislation, Legislative Bill 932, in January. The bill prohibits public employers from asking about a job applicant’s criminal past until they establish whether the applicant meets minimum job requirements. The Business & Labor Committee unanimously passed the bill, which was then attached to a larger prison reform bill. That bill passed 46-0 and Gov. Dave Heineman signed it into law in April.

The first state to pass such a law was Hawaii, which removed questions about criminal history from job applications for both public and private positions in 1998. But the phrase “Ban the Box” didn’t appear until years later, in the early 2000s, when the activist group All of Us or None used the term to describe its California-based campaign. The slogan caught on, and Ban the Box is now recognized shorthand for the movement behind an array of state and local legislation, ordinances and orders.
Thirteen states and the District of Columbia have passed Ban the Box legislation, according to Michelle Natividad Rodriguez of the National Employment Law Project, which supports Ban the Box. Some 70 cities and counties have effectively done the same.

Six states and the District of Columbia—as well as several cities, such as Baltimore, Newark, N.J., and San Francisco—have, like Hawaii, applied Ban the Box to private employers as well as public ones. In fact, some private businesses like Walmart and Target have voluntarily removed questions about criminal history from their job applications nationwide.

The belief undergirding all Ban the Box laws is much the same—that steady employment for people with criminal records is a fundamental part of those individuals’ successful reintegration into society. When individuals with criminal records can’t find work, it doesn’t affect only them. It negatively affects entire communities. A study by the Philadelphia Economy League found that the employment of formerly incarcerated individuals has a significant positive impact on tax revenues. The Center for Economic and Policy Research, in a 2010 report, found that unemployment rates among ex-offenders costs the economy about $60 billion a year in lost productivity and lowered output of goods and services.

Addressing a Problem

Many policymakers believe Ban the Box is part of the solution to this problem. California Assembly Member Roger Dickinson is among them. He authored his state’s Ban the Box legislation, Assembly Bill 218, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law in October 2013; it took effect in July 2014. “California’s recidivism rate is one of the highest in the nation,” Dickinson said. “And there is growing consensus that we must do all we can as government agencies to reduce reoffending in smart, coordinated and cost-effective ways.” Much like Nebraska’s law, California’s law prohibits government agencies from asking a job applicant about his or her criminal history until those agencies have evaluated the applicant’s employment qualifications. It doesn’t apply to jobs that require a background check or to criminal justice-related positions. The bill had many supporters, but it had its critics, too. The California State Association of Counties, for example, wrote that the bill took away “the discretion of local agencies to design an employment policy that works locally.”

According to Dickinson, some disagreement with this legislation stemmed from misconceptions. Certain critics, he said, believed the law “would require those with conviction histories to be hired.” Others believed it “would put vulnerable populations, like children, in harm’s way.”
But since Assembly Bill 218 became law and its provisions have been clarified, some critics have softened their positions.

Faith Conley, the California State Association of Counties’ legislative representative for employee relations, said now that Brown has signed the legislation, counties “are eagerly implementing the new (Ban the Box) policy. “We believe we can both implement the new policy and also protect public safety and security,” she said.

In Georgia, Ban the Box is set to become law by executive order. The state’s Criminal Justice Reform Council earlier this year recommended Georgia remove questions about criminal history from state agency job application forms and “instead require that the applicant disclose any criminal history during a face-to-face interview.” Gov. Nathan Deal intends to issue an executive order reflecting that recommendation, and will do so likely before the General Assembly reconvenes in January, according to Sasha Dlugolenski, a press aide for the governor.

Local Campaigns

Ban the Box campaigns have been especially successful at the local level.

In Indianapolis, for example, the city council in January passed an ordi- nance mandating that city and county agencies and their contractors not ask job applicants about criminal history until later interviews. Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard strongly supports Ban the Box. “Re-entry has been one of the mayor’s top priorities,” said Marc Lotter, the mayor’s communications director. Each year, Lotter said, some 5,000 formerly incarcerated individuals come into Indianapolis, and “most of them want to turn their lives around. With Ban the Box, it eliminates the chance they’ll be instantly disqualified, and it encourages employers to first identify the potential these applicants hold.”

Liam Julian is a writer and editor with the CSG Justice Center.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Purpose

What are we doing to find our true life's purpose? Do we have just one? Does it change over time? Is it about us or something greater than ourselves?
My passion has always been to help and serve others so that they can do things they never dreamed possible. Recently I saw The Imitation Game and there was a recurring quote that stuck with me: "Sometimes it is the people who no one imagines anything of who do the things no one can imagine." I have always made it my purpose to find and help those people. I pray I can continue to find ways to do so. 
What about you?

Friday, December 19, 2014

Georgia Leaders Discuss Challenges, Strategies in Hiring Individuals with Criminal Records

Taken from: http://csgjusticecenter.org/reentry/posts/georgia-leaders-discuss-challenges-strategies-in-hiring-individuals-with-criminal-records/

December 15, 2014
By Mai P. Tran, program associate

State leaders and business executives convened in Atlanta recently to address barriers to employment faced by individuals with criminal records, and to discuss strategies for improving employment outcomes.
 
The event, “Reducing the Risk of a Criminal Record: The Employer’s Perspective,” highlighted companies that hire individuals with criminal records.
 
Challenge and Opportunity
During a panel moderated by Appeals Court Judge Michael P. Boggs, business leaders shared approaches to fair hiring practices, including conducting a background check only after a job offer has been made and also giving potential employees the opportunity to explain their criminal record.
 
The panelists also addressed hiring challenges and risks. For big businesses, there is often the pressure to protect brand image from the stigma of hiring individuals with criminal records. Derek Bottoms, vice president of employment practices and associate relations at Home Depot, suggested that large companies are more likely to contend with the possibility that consumers might, for example, post negatively on social media about the company’s practice of hiring individuals with criminal records. In these cases, he said, “there is nothing a policymaker can do to protect the brand.”
 
For some small business owners, on the other hand, liability or fear of negligent hiring and supervising claims may discourage the hiring of individuals with criminal records. Peter deKok, owner of P.T. Enterprise, a natural stone distribution company, added that employment laws and policies with restrictions and rigid requirements on hiring and licensing “place an unfair burden on those employers trying to do right.”
 
Labor and employment attorney Myra Creighton stressed that people should be given the opportunity to explain their criminal record(s), and hiring managers and human resource departments should be trained on how to have these types of conversations. She noted that even the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a federal agency that enforces federal laws against employment discrimination, conducts background checks.
 
Employers as ‘Customers’
Leaders in corrections, workforce development, and policymakers who participated in the event’s second panel agreed that employers’ needs, which have traditionally been less emphasized, are also important.
 
“We have always looked at job seekers as our customer base,” said Michael Sterling, executive director of the Atlanta Workforce Development Agency. “But we need to start looking to employers as a customer base, too.”
 
The panelists discussed policies in Georgia that create barriers to employment for individuals with criminal records, such as driver’s license restrictions. Not having a license can become a significant challenge to securing and maintaining employment, especially for those without access to public transportation. Panelists also identified initiatives and programs in the state that help individuals with criminal records obtain jobs. Commissioner Brian Owens of the Georgia Department of Corrections mentioned opportunities made available to help incarcerated individuals obtain high school diplomas and college credits, as well as certifications for in-demand fields such as diesel mechanics and welding.
 
This discussion is a part of the growing conversation across the country between business leaders and policymakers on improving employment outcomes for individuals with criminal records. It is modeled after an event held in June 2014 at the White House, and is inspired by “State Pathways to Prosperity,” an initiative of the Council of State Governments, which is supported by the CSG Justice Center’s Reentry and Employment project. To learn more how you can host similar conversations in your jurisdiction, click here.
 
To learn about the Georgia event, click here.To learn about the White House event, click here.