by Dorsey Nunn
The signing of AB 218, the Fair Chance Employment Act, by Gov. Brown creates enormous potential for California, formerly incarcerated people and the community as a whole. Now people with records will have a better chance to become employed and thus to sustain themselves and their families and contribute to their larger community.
Criminal background checks undermine fair hiring practices and discriminate against a class of people solely based on prior conviction history. The new law prohibits initial inquiry about convictions on job applications for state agencies and local government jobs, postponing any background check until later in the hiring process.
Legal Services for Prisoners with Children and All of Us or None have been on a march to secure the full restoration of the civil and human rights of formerly incarcerated people for approximately 10 years. Our dedication to this mission is why we have been fighting to end structural discrimination in hiring and housing, represented by the question, “Have you been convicted …”
Over 10 years ago, All of Us or None initiated our Ban the Box campaign, which aims to prohibit employers, housing providers and other quality-of-life providers from discriminating against people with records. Now thousands of individuals and hundreds of organizations, service providers and elected officials around the country have joined in the campaign for fair chances in employment.
We are grateful for everyone’s contribution no matter how large or small. We want to thank Gov. Brown for signing AB 218 and Assemblymember Dickinson for authoring it and being a champion for the bill. Most of all we appreciate the hard work and tireless efforts of our co-sponsors, the National Employment Law Project and PICO California. With them, we mobilized people all over the nation to support an end to discrimination based on prior records and opening up employment opportunities in California for people with past convictions. This new law is a tremendous victory for all of us.
Real public safety and public health means that everyone has access to sustainable employment, affordable housing and a productive quality of life absent any forms of discrimination.
The signing of AB 218 is one step towards equality. We now need to prohibit others, including private companies and contractors, from legally eliminating people with conviction histories from job opportunities. We need to create more meaningful and accessible jobs so that people returning to our communities can have a legitimate way to support themselves, and contribute to our society as a whole.
Dorsey Nunn, executive director of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 1540 Market St., Suite 490, San Francisco, CA 94102, (415) 255-7036.