Second Chance for Ex-Offenders

Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

On November 15, 2018, the Center for American Progress (CAP) – an independent nonpartisan policy institute dedicated to improving the lives of all Americans – announced the launching of a national bipartisan Clean Slate Campaign to automate the clearing of criminal records for reformed ex-offenders.

The CAP estimates that between 70 million and 100 million Americans – or 1 in 3 – have some type of criminal record. With surveys revealing that 9 in 10 employers perform criminal background checks on job applicants, any criminal record – no matter how old or minor – can be a life sentence to poverty.

“A criminal record shouldn’t be a life sentence to poverty,” Neera Tanden, president and CEO of the CAP, stated in a press release about the launch of the Clean Slate Campaign. “CAP is excited to see momentum for clean slate automatic record-clearing laws spread to states across the country.”

Bipartisan clean slate legislation was signed into law in Pennsylvania in June 2018 with the support of a diverse coalition. Clean slate policies are also gaining bipartisan momentum in other states across the country, with 70 percent of Americans supporting clean slate policies across party lines.

Although millions of ex-offenders are eligible to have their criminal records expunged or sealed in court, the process for filing a record-clearing petition is complex and expensive, meaning the vast majority of ex-offenders never get the relief they need and deserve, a problem known as “the second chance gap.”

Founded with investments from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and supported by more than 25 organizations across the political spectrum, the Clean Slate Campaign offers a technological solution with automated criminal record clearing for reformed ex-offenders who remain crime free for a set period of time.

“Automatic record-clearing is about removing barriers to opportunity and giving people a fair shot at a fresh start,” David Plouffe, head of policy and advocacy at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, stated in the press release. “If we want America to succeed, we can’t leave up to one-third of our citizens behind.”

This Clean Slate Campaign will support local organizations working to advance clean slate automated record-clearing at the state and county level. The launch of the national campaign builds on investments from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, one of the earliest supporters of the clean slate policy model.

The Clean Slate Campaign has also launched a new website that includes research, information, and tools that advocates can use to launch clean slate campaigns in their own states. To learn more about the Clean Slate Campaign, and for a full list of partner organizations, visit cleanslatecampaign.org.

Ex-offenders face many hurdles after leaving prison to re-enter society, one of which is finding a job. In July 2018, the Prison Policy Initiative released a report entitled “Out of Prison & Out of Work” that calculated the unemployment rate for ex-offenders to be 27 percent, meaning one out of four felons can’t find work.

The 27 percent ex-offender unemployment rate surpasses the 25 percent unemployment rate that all Americans experienced during the height of the Great Depression in the 1930s and is striking given that the report revealed ex-offenders are more likely to want to find work than the average American.

Attorney Lester Rosen, founder and CEO of Employment Screening Resources® (ESR), has written an article entitled “Frequently Asked Question by Job Applicants: Should I Let a Potential Employer Know Upfront if I have a Criminal Record?” to help ex-offender job seekers deal with their criminal records.

Rosen, the author of ‘The Safe Hiring Manual,’ wrote that “whether or not to say anything and when is a real ‘Catch-22.’ If you do not mention a criminal record and the employer finds out about it on their own, the concern is that they will treat you as a dishonest person and not consider you for employment.”

Rosen also explains that if ex-offenders follow the “honesty is the best policy” approach and self-report a criminal record, the concern is that employers will still not hire them because of the criminal record and they will not even have the chance to show the knowledge, skills, and abilities to perform the job.

ESR – a background check firm headquartered in the San Francisco, California area – also “helps employers navigate the complex regulations around compliance and privacy laws, while providing resources and advocacy in helping ex-offenders find work,” according to a blog on BadCredit.org.

Dawn Standerwick – Vice President of Strategic Growth at ESR who brings 26 years of experience in workforce screening solutions – was interviewed by BadCredit.org and told them about ESR’s ongoing efforts to help ex-offenders rejoin the workforce and become contributors to society.

“There have been a lot of laws passed that are intended to help ex-offenders re-enter the workforce,” Standerwick said, adding that ESR helps ensure employers comply with the legal protections afforded ex-offenders while also providing comprehensive screening services that help keep workplaces safe.

ESR Offers Resources for Ex-Offenders Looking for Work

Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) – a leading global background check firm – offers ex-offenders looking for work an Ex-Offender Resources Page that includes a whitepaper on how ex-offenders can find a job. To learn more, visit www.esrcheck.com/Applicant-Support-Center/Ex-Offender-Resources/.

NOTE: Employment Screening Resources® (ESR) does not provide or offer legal services or legal advice of any kind or nature. Any information on this website is for educational purposes only.

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