Reentry Council News: Reducing Barriers to Employment

Just yesterday, the EEOC announced an important settlement agreement with Pepsi regarding its use of arrest and conviction records in employment.  The company’s policy excluded from permanent employment applicants arrested for any crime even if they had never been convicted of any offense.  The policy also denied employment to applicants arrested and convicted of certain crimes.  EEOC found that the criminal background check policy discriminated against African Americans in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The significance of this goes beyond the relief obtained and the impact on current and future applicants with criminal records.  The EEOC law enforcement process begins with the filing of a charge of discrimination.  If the EEOC finds cause to believe discrimination occurred, as in this case, they begin a conciliation process in an attempt to settle the matter before proceeding to litigation.  Usually the conciliation results are not public.  This is the first public conciliation concerning the use of arrest and conviction records and will help greatly in terms of public education efforts.  Links to the EEOC press release and Washington Post story are at the end of this post.

I also wanted to share a press release issued by DOL yesterday, announcing availability of more than $20 million in grant funds to assist adults who are returning to their communities after serving time in correctional facilities.  “By supporting these employment training programs, we are fulfilling a core promise of our justice system: Those who do wrong and serve their time deserve a second chance to make a positive contribution to their families and their communities,” said Secretary Solis. “Ultimately, these investments are turning ‘tax takers’ into ‘tax payers,’ and helping to relieve a major economic strain on state and local budgets, while also helping individuals get back on their feet and enhancing community stability.”  (Stay tuned for additional DOJ Second Chance solicitations…)

I’ve also added links to the Blumstein/Nakamura op-ed in Tuesday’s New York Times and a letter to the editor, authored by AAG Laurie Robinson and NIJ Director John Laub, published in the NYT on December 30.  Both pieces discuss the NIJ-funded research which shows that after some number of years (depending on the crime committed and the age at offense), those who stay out of trouble become indistinguishable from the general population in terms of their odds of another arrest.  This research has important and practical implications for our collective work.

Lastly, here’s a link to the Reentry MythBusters webinar held on December 20.  Staff from nine federal agencies presented the 22 MythBusters and fielded dozens of questions.  It’s a great overview to the myriad issues we are all working to improve.

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