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Showing posts with label jobs that hire felons. Show all posts
Showing posts with label jobs that hire felons. Show all posts

Monday, August 17, 2020

Jobs for Felons: How Is the Airline Industry Diversifying Its Employees?

Originally published on:

Let’s face it. Some people just have more difficulty finding a job: those convicted of a crime, veterans, and people with disabilities to name a few. Some may even call these groups “unemployable.” These groups’ “issues,” however, do not automatically disqualify them from finding a job with the airline industry.

Many industry managers have come to realize that a more diverse workforce gives all of their employees the incentive for more creativity and innovation. The airline industry is also moving in this direction. Let’s examine the qualifications for specific jobs within the airline industry, ways that airlines are going out of their way to hire certain groups, and who may be disqualified from being a flight attendant or a pilot.

What Are Your Qualifications?

Most people, when they think of airline jobs, automatically think of pilots, and for good reason. Pilots and other members of the flight crew make up one-third of those employed by the airlines. Another misconception people have is to get a position with an airline, you must have a college degree, and that is simply not true. There are many high-paying jobs you can get without a college degree  if you just look for them.

The most popular airline position that does not require a degree is that of a flight attendant. To become a flight attendant, you must complete a three- to six-week training program that is conducted by the airline. Upon successfully completing the program, the candidate earns the Federal Aviation Administration Certificate of Demonstrated Proficiency, at which point, they can work in their chosen position.


From arraignment to conviction to eventual release, felons often have a difficult life, and most just want a second chance. But even after they pay their debt to society and supposedly have a “clean slate,” most people don’t treat them as such. More than a quarter of people who served their time are unemployed.

So, does the airline industry hire felons? American Airlines states that they completely consider “all qualified applicants, including those with a criminal history.” This signifies that they examine an applicant’s prior experience and qualifications more than their previous legal issues. This doesn’t mean an applicant will find it easy to secure a position with an airline. Rather, that it is not impossible. 

And what about the coveted position of a flight attendant? Felons are not completely prohibited, but it does come with restrictions. If a person was convicted of a felony within the last five years or has more than one such conviction, they are ineligible. Why? A flight attendant needs to be able to fly in and out of Canada, and Canadian law forbids a person with a conviction to do so. The felon can sometimes get around that, however, by applying for a waiver from Canadian immigration.  


Another disproportionately unemployed group is veterans. There are several reasons for this. A lot of civilian employers stereotype veterans as being very rigid and inflexible. Sometimes, it may be a challenge for a veteran to put their military-based skills into civilian language. They may also be skilled in a few things that the employer wants, but not have all of the skills that an employer expects.

Many of the skills veterans gain as part of their military training like motivation, ambition, and the ability to adapt, make them great pilot candidates. One big obstacle for some veterans becoming pilots is specific physical and mental conditions that their military service may have caused including Gulf War Syndrome and PTSD. In addition to these specific conditions, many antianxiety and antidepressant medications are on the “do not take” list, which excludes many veterans from being considered “pilot material.”

Another big roadblock that veterans face to becoming pilots is a lack of funds. Most veterans find the cost of the training and renting an airplane for the required flight time cost-prohibitive. In 2018, this problem of finances was solved for 40 veterans, thanks to the “Forces to Flyers” program. This program was designed to provide “flight training extending from the first flight lesson through the training necessary to become a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) or Certified Flight Instructor-Instrument (CFI-I),” paving the way for veterans to become pilots.

People with Disabilities

Many stereotypes hold employers back from hiring people with disabilities. Employers believe that they will not be as productive, they will be absent more frequently, and that, due to government regulations, they will have difficulty firing them if they do not work out.

In addition, the people within the airline industry are often perceived as more physically-fit than the general population, largely due to the strong influence that the military has had on aviation throughout the years. This doesn’t mean, however, that you cannot find work in the following positions:

  • Aviation Maintenance Technician
  • Inspector
  • Emergency or Medical Professional
  • Customer Service 

People with disabilities can find work through the airlines with a special program geared just for them: the National Outreach Program for Diversity and Inclusion. This program helps individuals with the following disabilities find gainful employment:

  • Blindness
  • Deafness
  • Missing extremities
  • Paralysis
  • Dwarfism

When interviewing for a position, applicants under this program are expected to bring, along with the regular documents such a resume and transcripts, documentation about their specific disability.

This program does not mean that these individuals will qualify to be pilots, however. Many medical conditions disqualify someone from pursuing the position of a pilot:

  • Epilepsy
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Substance Abuse
  • Bipolar disease
  • Unconsciousness that has no cause

The airline industry recognizes the benefits of diversity in its workforce and is doing its best to incorporate diversity by hiring felons, veterans, and people with disabilities. They prefer hiring on merit instead of looking at a person’s disqualifying attributes. There are even programs that provide veterans and people with disabilities the chance to become part of the airline industry when it may not have been possible in the past. Due to the strides of the airline industry, many can find gainful, satisfying employment in a field that they love.

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How To Get A Job With An Airline - The Straight Scoop

Companies hire felons | companies that hire felons | Companies that hire ex-offenders | Employers that hire ex-offenders | employers that hire felons | Jobs for felons | jobs for ex-offenders | jobs that hire felons | places that hire felons | felon friendly jobs | felon friendly employers | how to get a job with criminal record | second chance jobs for felons | temp agencies that hire felons | high paying jobs for felons 

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Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Trades Schools/Programs Can Stop Police Shootings

I usually post answers on my blog to questions I get from ex-offenders and felons looking for jobs.  Today, I found an article that is interesting.  Tell me what you think

- Eric

Originally posted at

What If Rayshard Brooks, George Floyd, and all other black men killed by police were seen as hardworking men?

Police shootings of unarmed black men and women are the most significant issues this country is facing right now. A post-secondary school option could be the solution to this ongoing problem.

Netflix has an entire collection of movies viewers can watch to educate themselves on the African American experience. One of the movies featured is a Netflix Original entitled 13th. If you haven’t already, please do yourself a favor and watch that documentary, because the prison industrial complex is real.

However, all you need to know right now, is that African Americans are criminalized far too often in this country. In light of that anecdote, the issue of police killings of black men and women can gain more clarity.

Due to the racist background of policing in this country and the effect of migration of labor jobs out of American. African Americans have been stripped away from the thing that made them so valuable.

According to NPR, thousands of high paying trade jobs remain open because of a lack of qualified workers. This may not seem relatable, but if you look at how African Americans were able to build wealth in the past, and there is a direct correlation.

Aside from Slave, most black people held skilled labor titles such as Welder, Plumber, Contractor, Etc. In fact, because of Slavery, only a small portion of the working-class white could perform most trades.

The 13th amendment made black people into criminals; college marketing made black people broke. As black people started migrating north searching for more freedoms, they began to go to college rather than work with their hands. This trend continued and was joined by public schools removing trades.

This has to lead us to where we are today—police shootings of unarmed African American men and women over petite crimes.  If the general perception of African Americans were that they are hardworking, skilled laborers, the “fear” that gets them killed wouldn’t exist.

In Philadelphia, there is a school called Philadelphia Training Technician Institute that teaches welding, masonry, among other trades. Many of the students are from the inner city, convicted felons, or people off the street. Yet one thing is clear; this men are up to something good.

Whether it is 10 am or 10 pm, which is the time some night students leave, with their gear, workboots, and bookbags, the thugs the media see become the worker’s people respect.

Rayshard Brooks and George Floyd both may still be dead even if they had mutual degrees from Harvard. That is because race is color first, Conversely, though, it’s about perception second and that perception can be swayed with just the slightest change. Ex) Football Player takes a knee, he is a problem. Cop Takes a knee on a man’s neck and kills him; he is a hero. See what I did there?

What do you guys think about Police Shootings of unarmed Black People? Could Trade schools help change how police see people of color?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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Trades Schools/Programs Can Stop Police Shootings

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Monday, March 2, 2020

This company is hiring without asking about candidates’ backgrounds — here’s why

Originally published on CNBCKarina Hernandez
Wed, Feb 26 2020

Inquiries into your criminal background are standard when filling out a job application. But for folks who have experienced life behind bars, their prospects of getting hired are cut in half, hindering their ability to settle back into society.

The Body ShopThe Body Shop, the cosmetics brand from the United Kingdom, wants to lend a helping hand for marginalized people struggling to get a job. This summer, the company will implement “open hiring” — a hiring process that employs anyone on a first-come first-serve basis without asking about criminal and educational backgrounds — in all of its North American stores. The Body Shop claims it is the first retailer to do so in the United States.

“For us it’s not about filling roles and hiring more people,” said Andrea Blieden, the U.S. general manager for The Body Shop. “This is about setting an example as a brand about how this can be a force for good and fight injustices in society that exist, like unequal access to employment.”

How ‘open hiring’ began

The concept of open hiring is often credited to Greyston Bakery, which was established in 1982 in Yonkers, New York. People can sign up for a job at the factory and are immediately hired once a position becomes available.

New hires go through an apprenticeship program to learn the job’s duties and basic life skills. Completion of the apprenticeship leads to an entry-level position with Greyston Bakery, which supplies Ben & Jerry’s with brownies and sells its own brownies at Whole Foods.

Lucas Tanner, chief operating officer of Greyston Bakery, considers the hiring practice to be revolutionary. “We profoundly believe that open hiring, even though it’s a simple idea and it’s an extraordinary idea, can change the world,” said Tanner.

Open hiring can also change lives. Arthur, 50, had been in and out of prison since he was 16 years old, and his criminal record affected his chances of obtaining a steady job. “So many people judge you by your background and mistakes you did in your past,” he said. “They will slam the door on you right away.”

But 19 months ago, Greyston Bakery took a chance on Arthur. He was immediately hired after patiently waiting eight months to land an interview with the company. “I wasn’t judged,” said Arthur. “Right off the bat I was given an opportunity.”

Oftentimes, companies ask Tanner whether the new hires are ever violent. He said that is a misconception of open hiring. “We’ve never witnessed that,” said Tanner.

Starting ‘open hiring’ with larger employers

In 2018, the company launched the Center for Open Hiring to aid other businesses in adopting similar practices. One of their clients is The Body Shop.

In September 2019, Greyston helped the company transform its North Carolina distribution center into a pilot program. Background checks and educational requirements were removed for the 208 seasonal workers hired at the distribution center. Only three questions were asked during the application process: “Are you authorized to work in the United States?,” “Can you stand for up to eight hours?” and “Can you lift over 50 pounds?”

Since the start of the program, the company saw a 60% decline in employee turnover in 2019 compared to 2018. These results convinced The Body Shop to take this initiative to its stores, in hopes of giving a second chance to marginalized communities, like formerly incarcerated people.

A 2018 report by the Prison Policy Initiative found that 27% of ex-offenders are unemployed, compared to just 5.2% of the general population. Those who have earnings when released from prison earn less than a full-time worker earning minimum wage.

“All of these barriers that come into people’s way can be lessened when someone has some independence,” said Han Lu, a policy analyst at National Employment Law Project, “which is usually found in a salary or a wage.”

In a time when employers are voicing concerns over a labor shortage, Lu believes it’s an opportunity for employers to take the lead and abandon criminal background checks. “Workers with records tend to be more reliable and can have less turnover,” explained Lu. “It’s a place where employers can have a big impact in the communities that they exist in.”

The Body Shop sees the potential in this untapped population. “You are expanding your employment opportunities and you are giving people a chance they might have not had,” said Blieden, “and the goal would be that you have less employees turn.”

Formerly incarcerated employees perform as well or better, studies show

Prior studies explain the benefits for an employer when hiring people with a criminal background. In a study of military members, experts found that among 1.3 million ex-felons in the military, those with a criminal record performed as well or better than those with no record.Often times, ex-felons were promoted faster to higher ranks.

In 2016, John Hopkins Hospital shared results of a five-year study on 500 ex-offenders it hired. There was a lower turnover rate in the first 40 months, compared to non-offenders.

But not everyone is on board with these types of hiring practices. Opponents say ex-offender friendly initiatives, like “ban the box” or “fair chance hiring,” come along with unintended consequences. Initiatives like “ban the box” or “fair chance hiring” differ slightly from “open hiring” because applicants still deal with the typical job application process, but any questions regarding criminal history are removed. In contrast, people are automatically hired through open hiring without a formal job application or interview.

A study claims that when criminal history information is removed during the hiring process, it can actually lead to an “increase of statistical discrimination against demographic groups that include more ex-offenders,” like black and Latino men, because of the assumption that they are more likely to possess a criminal record. These findings have been disputed by economists.

The movement for inclusive hiring gained some momentum in December 2019 when President Donald Trump signed the Fair Chance Act as part of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act. Federal agencies and contractors will be barred from inquiring about criminal records before a job offer. It will take effect at the end of 2021.

Just like the federal government, Andrea Blieden hopes other companies join The Body Shop to take a chance on those who have been locked out of the labor market. “We take chances every single day at work, in life,” said Blieden, “and this is probably one of the best chances that we have taken, and we’re really excited about it.”

Companies that Hire Felons

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This company is hiring without asking about candidates’ backgrounds — here’s why

Eric Mayo

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Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Why JPMorgan Chase Wants to Give More Former Criminals a Second Chance

Why JPMorgan Chase Wants to Give More Former Criminals a Second Chance
Why JPMorgan Chase Wants to Give More Former Criminals a Second Chance
Originally published on By Matthew Heimer October 21, 2019
In 2018, financial giant JPMorgan Chase hired more than 20,000 people in the U.S. Roughly 10% of them—about 2,100—had a criminal history. And if CEO Jamie Dimon’s plans are realized, those employees will eventually be joined by many more co-workers with similar blotches on their records. 
JPMorgan today is announcing several major steps to encourage second-chance hiring for those with criminal records. The bank is officially "banning the box"—removing all questions about criminal records from its job applications. It will steer more than $7 million toward organizations that provide job- and life-skills training to the formerly incarcerated. The bank is also launching a new “policy center,” a think tank of sorts that will design and advocate for regulatory changes around certain economic issues. Its first agenda item: reforming rules that effectively bar former felons from employment, in finance and elsewhere.
In an interview with Fortune, Dimon described the new campaign as an offshoot of the bank’s widening economic-revitalization campaign, an effort that has involved steering financing, training and expertise to cash-starved neighborhoods, particularly in Detroit and Chicago. Those campaigns, he said, had exposed more of the bank’s leaders to the challenges faced by “returning citizens” with felonies on their records. “They can’t get jobs, they can’t rent a home,” Dimon said. “Socially, they’re on the margins.”
The bank’s moves come at a time of growing bipartisan support for criminal-justice reforms that could help better integrate former offenders in the economy. Those include reductions of penalties for some minor misdemeanors, as well as measures that could help people more easily expunge their criminal records. There are about 70 million working-age adults in the U.S. with either an arrest record or a criminal conviction, according to a report by the Brennan Center for Justice. Research suggests people with such blemishes are much less likely to make it past a first job interview. And a 2018 study put the unemployment rate among formerly incarcerated people at 27%, many times higher than the wider jobless rate.
JPMorgan stresses that its focus is on building opportunities in entry level jobs for people whose past offenses were relatively minor—think DUIs, disorderly conduct, or low-level drug possession. (Hiring hardened criminals or fraudsters to work in sensitive financial positions remains well out of bonds.) The bank’s early pilot programs in building an employment pipeline for candidates that qualify will be focused in Chicago, where JPMorgan launched a $40 million neighborhood revitalization campaign in 2017. 

A new policy arm

Heather Higginbottom, a former State Department official during the Obama administration, will begin tackling issues related to returning citizens in her new role as head of the JPMorgan Chase PolicyCenter. At the top of the agenda, she told Fortune, is working with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. to ease rules that make it hard for financial institutions to make second-chance hires. Other priorities, she said, include campaigning at the state and local level for broader ban-the-box rules; making criminal-record expungement automatic for low-level convictions; and changing rules that enable courts to suspend the drivers’ licenses of minor offenders—a punishment that often hamstrings someone’s ability to get or hold down a job.  
The PolicyCenter will eventually take on a range of other issues related to economic inclusion. Dimon said he envisions the center “digging into everything that creates income volatility—tax payments, healthcare, having to get your car fixed.” Higginbottom added, “The criteria is: Do we have unique expertise and experience? We’re looking at things like retirement savings, affordable housing, areas where we bring a lot of data to bear.” 
What made second-chance hiring the first priority? Dimon said one catalyst for the decision was Bryan Stevenson, the law professor, defense attorney, and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative. Stevenson spoke to top JPMorgan Chase executives in 2018 about criminal-justice reform and racial inequities. People in the audience “were absolutely speechless and teary-eyed,” Dimon recalled. “The injustices of the system—that motivates people.” 

Why JPMorgan Chase Wants to Give More Former Criminals a Second Chance

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Why JPMorgan Chase Wants to Give More Former Criminals a Second Chance

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Thursday, October 17, 2019

Goodwill industries providing hope and help to convicted felons

Posted: Mon 11:31 PM, Oct 14, 2019  | Updated: Mon 11:40 PM, Oct 14, 2019

Toledo, OHIO (WTVG) - Goodwill Industries works to convicted felons get back into the workforce. The non-profit recently received a $1 million grant from the Department of Justice for a program aimed at providing training and treatment behind bars.
The program is called Stay the Course. 
The idea is to have case workers and other navigators inside county and regional jails and state prisons,
Goodwill industries providing hope and help to convicted felons
connecting with convicted felons and offering them help before release.
Senator Rob Portman helped secure funding through the Second Chance Act. Since 2009 the legislation has helped fund $39 million in grant money for Ohio re-entry programs.
Amanda Huckleberry was convicted of felony theft three years ago, since then she has been working to find permanent housing, a job and transportation with the help of Goodwill.
She attributes her success of staying away from the streets to her caseworker, Samantha. Huckleberry says when she was released, after serving 7 months in prison, she had no job, no house and no car.
"I went from having everything to nothing," says Huckleberry.
Today, Senator Rob Portman heard some of the success stories linked to the local program and also address areas where there are gaps.
For Huckleberry, while she is receiving job training, housing and transportation continue to be an issue. Portman says he wants to introduce the Jobs Act again to Congress as another way to guarantee employment after incarceration, potentially making securing a home and a vehicle easier for those with nothing.
Portman says he wants federal Pell Grants to not only cover the cost of colleges and universities but skilled trade training jobs and certification programs. He believes this will help those convicted of a crime get back into the workforce quickly and be able to earn a living wage for positions that are in dire need of qualified workers.

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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Felons must properly prepare for the job search to be successful

Felons must properly prepare for the job search to be successful

Felons must properly prepare for the job search to be successful
Ex-offenders and felons looking for jobs often have a very hard time.  Their criminal backgrounds often make it a little more difficult to get hired than the average  job seeker. Jobs for felons will be a lot easier to obtain with hard work and proper preparation.

A successful job search will require the right tools. The first step will be assessing your tools which are your set of skills.  Are you able to tell a prospective employer what you can do in ten minutes or less.  If not, I suggest you make a list of your skills and be prepared to talk about them in a way that the employer will see the benefit.

Do you have a list of your previous employers handy for when it is time to complete an application?  Don't wait until you have fill out one to look for this information.  If your past jobs were on record and you had taxes taken out, you can get a list from the Social Security Administration.  Check the blue pages of your local telephone book for the nearest office nearest to you.

Felons must properly prepare for the job search to be successful
Next, you will need proper documentation.  Do you three forms of identification?  You will need ID to get a job.  You can get a copy of your Social Security card at your local office.  Below is a link to the application for a replacement cards along with instructions.  It will give you a head start.

Birth Certificate

To obtain a copy of your birth certificate, contact the office of vital statistics in the city where you were born.

Valid Driver’s License

To obtain a copy of your driver’s license, contact your local motor vehicle agency.  It is listed in your local telephone directory.  Your local motor vehicle agency may even offer “Identification Only” cards if you do not have a driver’s license.

Photo Identification

Many county agencies provide photo identification cards. 

Green Card or Visa (if applicable)

To obtain copies of your visa or alien registration card contact the office of Immigration and Naturalization.  You can get the process of renewing or replacing your green card here:

Everyone looking for employment should have a resume.  A resume will help you  to present your best qualities in one neat package.  It is a summary of your background, experience, training and skills.  If you have a resume, have someone look at it to judge it's quality.  If you do not have a well written resume, I suggest you get some help putting one together.  You should leave a copy of your resume with everyone you speak to about a job

Next,  do you have the right interview clothing?  A well fitting suit with a nice shirt and tie would be perfect thing to wear.  A new suit may not be possible for someone just getting back to the real world but I suggest that men at least have dress slacks, a light colored shirt and a matching tie.  You should also have a pair of shoes that you can shine.  Not boots, not sneakers…shoes!  Many ex-offenders and felons get their interview clothing at thrift stores.  They find quality clothes at very low prices, clean and press them and they are ready to do their best to get a job.  No matter how you get them, the right clothes makes all the difference.

Lastly, you have to find really good job leads, a great place to start finding job leads is your local One-stop Career Center.  You will not only find job leads in your area but you can get help with your resume and and other resources that can help in your job search.  You can find the nearest One Stop Career Center Here:

Here you will find open jobs in your area as well as a long list of Companies that Hire Ex-offenders and Felons:  Click Here

This is a great start to a successful job search.  Brush up on your interviewing skills and you will be ready to compete for a job.

Good Luck!

 Felons must properly prepare for the job search to be successful

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Jobs for Ex-offenders and Felons: Where can Ex-offenders Find Jobs

Jobs for Ex-offenders and Felons: Ten Steps to Getting a Job with a Criminal Record

Felons must properly prepare for the job search to be successful

Felons must properly prepare for the job search to be successful

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Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Scrubbing The Past To Give Those With A Criminal Record A Second Chance

Scrubbing The Past To Give Those With A Criminal Record A Second Chance Latosha Poston says she made a lot of mistakes in her life. Her legal troubles began in her teens after her first child was born in Indianapolis. Over the years, bad decisions led to some arrests, some convictions.
Barbara Brosher/Indiana Public Media

Latosha Poston says she made a lot of mistakes in her life. Her legal troubles began in her teens after her first child was born in Indianapolis. Over the years, bad decisions led to some arrests, some convictions.

"Sometimes we get stuck in our past and let our past guide us," she says.

The 44-year-old has worked hard to straighten out her life. But her criminal records — all involving misdemeanors — continued to haunt her as she tried to find a decent job and place to live.

Then, while watching the local news, she heard about Indiana's Second Chance law, passed in 2013. It allows people to petition to remove their misdemeanor convictions and arrests from public view.

Indiana is among several states to change their approach to the restoration of a person's rights and status after an arrest or conviction. In the last two years, more than 20 states have expanded or added laws to help people move on from their criminal records — most involve misdemeanors. Marijuana legalization and decriminalization have played a big role in driving these reforms. Fairness is another factor, with lawmakers from both parties rethinking the long-term consequences of certain criminal records, as well as the economic impact of mass incarceration.

There are also purely economic reasons to encourage the sealing of criminal records.

"It hurts communities, it hurts counties and it hurts states if their citizens cannot be productively employed or aren't part of the tax base," says American University law professor Jenny Roberts, who has written extensively on the collateral consequences of convictions. "So there's certainly an economic incentive for allowing people to move beyond their criminal record."

The state-level reforms have helped tens of thousands of people across the United States.

Poston of Indianapolis is among them. After working in home health care for nearly 20 years and making just over $11 an hour, she landed a much better-paying job in a hospital as an operating room assistant once her records were sealed.

"I felt like something was lifted off," she says of her case. "Because now I kind of felt like a human."

With background checks ubiquitous for jobs, schools, mortgage applications and more, even one conviction — and sometimes even just one arrest — can dog people for years, critics say, relegating them to permanent second-class status.

"No one should underestimate how much even the most minor of misdemeanor convictions — including marijuana or trespassing or any kind of conviction — can affect someone's ability to get a job, to get housing and to function fully in society," says Roberts, who also co-directs the Criminal Justice Clinic at American University in Washington, D.C.

Time for change

The reform trend reflects an emerging consensus that the social and economic problems created by mass prosecution and incarceration call for a fundamental reimagining of the criminal justice system.

While reformers largely welcome the moves by states, there's concern that a patchwork of laws as well as steep legal fees, prosecutorial foot-dragging and other barriers have blunted what is otherwise seen as a rare area of bipartisan, effective reform.

Scrubbing The Past To Give Those With A Criminal Record A Second Chance
The Expungement Help Desk in Indianapolis helps people with criminal records file petitions to get their records expunged or sealed.
Barbara Brosher/Indiana Public Media
"The states are really all over the map on this stuff, and they're all reinventing the wheel," says attorney Margaret Love, executive director of the Collateral Consequences Resource Center and an expert on clemency and restoration of rights.

She and others are calling on the National Conference of State Legislatures, the National Center for State Courts and the American Bar Association to study and share what reforms are showing the most promising outcomes.

"Right now it's getting harder for state legislatures to pick out a single approach," Love says. "We have to start looking at this in a more systematic way and look at what works best."

For example, there's a growing body of evidence that it undermines public safety if you don't help people move beyond their criminal records and participate in the workforce. Without that help, the chance of people returning to the criminal justice system increases.

One study estimates that the unemployment rate for formerly incarcerated people is more than 27 percent — far higher than the total U.S. unemployment rate during any historical period, including the Great Depression. The rate is even higher for African-Americans who've had run-ins with the law.

With the national jobless rate at historical lows, many companies are looking at new ways to hire additional workers. A recent survey showed that more than 80 percent of managers — and two-thirds of human resource professionals — "feel that the value workers with criminal records bring to the organization is as high as or higher than that of workers without records."

Indiana's example

As in many other states, the work of sealing and expungement in Indiana mostly falls to nonprofit legal groups and private attorneys. But in Marion County, the prosecutor's office has hired a full-time paralegal to process all requests. The county has had more than 11,500 people come through since legislators implemented the law.

While the mood nationally surrounding expungement has dramatically improved, some prosecutors and judges remain skeptical or outright opposed to records clearing. Philosophically they don't think those who've broken the law should get a clean slate.

So it helps a lot that in Marion County, which encompasses Indianapolis, Prosecutor Terry Curry fully supports the effort. He advocated for the law because he thinks people who've stayed out of trouble shouldn't carry the legal stain forever.

"If our goal is to have individuals not reoffend, then in our mind it's appropriate to remove obstacles that are going to inhibit their ability to become productive members of our community," Curry says.

While most cases in Indiana involve misdemeanors, judges have discretion with violent-felony petitions. Victims of those crimes also can give testimony. More serious felonies can be expunged eight or 10 years after the completion of the sentence.

Some crimes must have the prosecutor's written consent for expungement. Homicides and some sexual offenses are not eligible for expungement in Indiana and in most other states.

You can petition to have records for convictions expunged only once in your lifetime. If you are convicted of other charges later on, there's no chance of having them sealed.

While the process in Indiana and in other states seems simple, serious hurdles remain. Expungement can be time consuming and costly. There are filing fees for every petition — fees not everyone can afford.

In addition, the process can vary from county to county depending on cooperation from local prosecutors. Advocates in Indiana want lawmakers to make it easier for people to expunge their records — regardless of where they are in the state.

Getting the word out

Even more vexing — in Indiana and throughout the country — is the general ignorance about existing expungement laws. People just don't know they exist or how they work.

Public defenders from New York to Los Angeles say they have to do a better job of both getting the word out and pushing states to better fund these efforts.

At a recent LA-area expungement clinic, a man showed up who'd done significant prison time for a nonviolent felony. And he'd been off probation for more than five years. He still couldn't get a job. The man, who didn't want his name used, thought at first the expungement clinic was some kind of scam.

"He had no idea he could not only get it [the felony] expunged but reduced to a misdemeanor," says Los Angeles County Deputy Public Defender Lara Kislinger, who was helping him with the paperwork. "He just had no idea. And he was so grateful. And he's been having so much trouble finding a job. And we want people to be able to re-enter society and be productive members of society. And this was a case where it was so obvious it was holding up jobs — and life. And it's tragic."

Expanding public knowledge of sealing and expungement laws takes money and effort. Many public defender offices already are overwhelmed, understaffed and underresourced.

How long should a record last?

Across the nation, felonies are harder to expunge and involve longer waiting periods, and in many states, homicides and certain sexual offenses are almost impossible to expunge.
Scrubbing The Past To Give Those With A Criminal Record A Second Chance
Jay Jordan, 33, is the director of the #TimeDone/Second Chances project for the nonprofit Californians for Safety and Justice. The clinic involves public defenders who volunteer to help people get their criminal charges or records reduced or expunged.
Philip Cheung for NPR
There's a new push in some states to clear some felony convictions, especially nonviolent ones.

California has taken the lead in reducing incarceration and prosecution of certain low-level drug crimes and nonviolent felonies following the passage of Proposition 47 and other measures. Past offenders can petition a court to reduce their crimes to misdemeanors.

Supporters say it has helped reduce the prison population and racial disparities in the justice system while saving taxpayers money. Funds are redirected, for example, into support services such as drug treatment and counseling.

Others say Proposition 47, while a good start, is inadequate. Jay Jordan of Los Angeles served seven years in prison for robbery. He has been out now for nearly eight years and says he still faces daunting obstacles to full re-entry into society.

"You know, I tried to adopt and was turned down. Tried to volunteer at school and was turned down. Tried [to] sell insurance, was turned down. Tried to sell used cars, was turned down. So, you know, every single step of the way when I try to better myself and, you know, be able to take care of myself for my family, there are these massive barriers," Jordan says. "And I'm not alone."

Indeed, there are some 8 million formerly incarcerated people in California. In the U.S., it's estimated that there are some 60 million people with a criminal record, according to federal statistics. The majority are misdemeanors. One report estimates as many people have criminal records as college diplomas.

Jordan now works for a nonprofit that advocates for rights of the formally incarcerated. In their work, Jordan and others are asking the basic question — how long should these convictions be on people's records if they've done their time and are working to become good citizens?

Not everyone wants these reforms. In California, some want to roll back parts of the state's criminal justice reforms through a proposed 2020 ballot initiative that would, among other things, reduce the number of inmates who can seek earlier parole and reclassify some theft crimes from misdemeanors to felonies.

"Proposition 47 was approved overwhelmingly by California voters who understood that permanently punishing people for a past mistake is not reflective of our shared American values nor is it an effective safety strategy," says Jordan, who directs Californians for Safety and Justice's #TimeDone/Second Chances campaign.

"Everyone who has an old, low-level, nonviolent felony on their record that is eligible for reduction to a misdemeanor under Prop. 47 should be able to get relief, and we want to make that as easy as we possibly can for folks," he says. "People deserve the chance to overcome the mistakes of their past, and that road to redemption should be as smooth as possible."

Some Democratic lawmakers in California are pushing back with proposed legislation that would automate the expungement process for all felonies that are eligible for reduction under the law.

Legal experts like Roberts, the American University law professor, caution that the best solution might be for prosecutors to simply take fewer minor cases to court in the first place.

"I don't think you can have an actual conversation about sealing and expungement and decriminalization until you talk about less prosecution and less funneling of low-level misdemeanors into the criminal justice system," Roberts says.

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Scrubbing The Past To Give Those With A Criminal Record A Second Chance

Eric Mayo

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