Richmond, CA--The Richmond City Council is poised to take a historic step in leveling the playing field for returning citizens as they vote on the expansion of their "Fairness in Hiring" policy to include all companies doing business with the City of Richmond. The Safe Return Project will also release a newly published report, Employment and Community Reintegration in Contra Costa County, in collaboration with Pacific Institute and CCISCO. The publication presents original research, including survey findings that 78% of formly incarcerated Richmond residents are unemployed, and two-out-of-three have not held a single job since their release.
On Tuesday, July 30th at 6:30pm, a broad cross-section of clergy, formerly incarcerated community leaders, public officials and business owners will hold a press conference on the steps of the Richmond City Hall to declare their support for the legislation.
Richmond City Council member Jovanka Beckles introduced the legislation in response to the 78% unemployment rate for Richmond residents who have returned home from incarceration. The City of Richmond and 43 other cities and states across the U.S. have decided that in their hiring they will not consider applicants' past convictions unless legally required and only after the person has found to be qualified for the position. The Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission endorses this as a best practice and many county governments have found that it reduces costs in addition to improving public safety. "Sensitive positions" would be excluded from this provision and would be allowed to conduct background checks during the hiring process.
More than 50 private business owners, including the president of the Richmond Chamber of Commerce, have signed "Fairness in Hiring" pledges declaring their commitment to making "my best effort to employ the most qualified applicant at my place of business, regardless of their past convictions. This is my contribution in the effort to support public safety, and the successful reintegration of formerly incarcerated individuals in the city of Richmond."
The research report finds a high level of interest in job training and transitional employment; while only 30% of respondents said they had participated in a trade or job training program after their release, more than 3 in 4 of those who did not participate were interested in such a program. The financial hardship of unemployment was evident in that more than half of those surveyed stated they had often or sometimes skipped a meal due to difficulties getting food. The majority also reported they had wanted to see a doctor, but did not because of the cost.
Over the last year Contra Costa County has lead the way around issues of reentry and realignment in the state of California as the county shifted over $5 million dollars away from a jail expansion and into investments in people coming home for Prison (click here for the history of this campaign).
WHO: Safe Return Project and broad coalition of supporters
WHAT: Press Conference in support of the expansion of Richmond's "Fairness in Hiring" policy
WHEN: Tuesday, July 30 at 6:30pm
WHERE: On the steps of Richmond City Council Chambers
Click here to access the new report