[Ppnews] SF Win for All of Us or None!!
Political Prisoner News
PPnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Oct 12 18:10:34 EDT 2005
Congratulations All of Us or None!
A Call to Let Felons Start Fresh
San Francisco supervisors urge deletion of the question about prior felonies
from public job applications.
By Lee Romney
Times Staff Writer
October 12, 2005
SAN FRANCISCO Elected leaders here Tuesday took a step unusual for
politicians: They sided with felons.
With no debate, supervisors unanimously urged the city and county to delete
the question about prior convictions from public employment applications.
The resolution is not binding. And it does not prevent employers from
conducting criminal background checks or asking about prior felonies during
"It's very important, because it gives you an opportunity to sell yourself
to the employer," Robert Bowden, 42, an ex-convict who has been out of
prison for seven years, said after the vote. "It gives you another option
other than going back to what you did
. If they want us to be productive
members of society, they've got to let us back into society."
In introducing the measure two weeks ago, Supervisor Tom Ammiano stressed
that it would broaden the city's pool of qualified applicants while
reinvesting in ex-convicts who are working to rehabilitate themselves.
The resolution prompted more than 160 letters from members of a San
Francisco political action committee concerned that potential changes would
hamstring city hiring managers and inappropriately allow certain classes of
felons into sensitive positions.
Others nationwide watched with interest: With the vote, San Francisco became
the first municipality in the state and possibly the country to grapple
with what advocates say is employment discrimination against a swelling
population of ex-prisoners.
Increasing security concerns since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks have led
to a sharp rise in criminal background checks by employers: Eighty percent
conducted them in 2003, up from 51% in 1996, according to the Society for
Human Resource Management. The trend has further weeded former offenders
from the workplace and prompted some employers to fire otherwise stable
workers who lied about criminal pasts, advocates say.
"If they can get their foot in the door so that at least they can be
I think that's extremely important," said former Clinton
administration pardon attorney Margaret Colgate Love, who recently completed
a study for the Washington, D.C.-based Sentencing Project of state laws that
affect felons after their release.
The vote by the supervisors came the same day that San Francisco Dist. Atty.
Kamala Harris unveiled a "reentry" program to provide job training,
education and other guidance to ex-offenders in an attempt to reduce steep
recidivism rates among California parolees.
Dozens of ex-felons packed the supervisors' chambers late last month to
support the employment application measure. Activists hope the San Francisco
resolution will become a blueprint for others across the state. One spoke of
fruitlessly seeking rental housing when his only identification was a prison
Linda Walker, 47, a Contra Costa County employee who works securing child
support payments, talked of suffering eternally for crimes she had long ago
done the time for. Although the former heroin addict with a petty theft
conviction managed to find a sympathetic manager and land a good job, she
said she feared having to reveal her felon status each time she sought
"There have been many times I didn't apply for a position because of that
box," she told supervisors when the measure was introduced. "There are so
many of us who do not seek housing, jobs, loans and the opportunity to
advance because we don't want to answer that question because we've
Driving the measure is a Bay Area-based group of ex-convicts called All of
Us or None. Leader Dorsey Nunn has urged public officials to view the
application checkbox issue as one hurdle in a broader civil rights movement
for the formerly incarcerated.
The scene was more subdued Tuesday as two members of the group showed up to
watch their measure succeed. Bowden, convicted of drug dealing, now works
security for St. Anthony's Foundation. He believes he secured the job only
because the application did not inquire about his felony status and he could
explain his past in person. He never received a call back after checking the
felon box on 40 other applications, he said.
The debate comes as the public policy problem of a vast felon underclass is
capturing attention nationwide. There are an estimated 12 million people in
the U.S. with felony convictions about 8% of the working-age population,
and more than 600,000 offenders are being released from prisons yearly, said
Devah Pager, a Princeton University sociologist who researches employment
discrimination against felons.
Pager hired groups of African American and white young men with identical
resumes and experience to pose as job applicants. Some were told to say they
had a drug felony. Her study found that checking the felony box on
applications reduced the white applicants' chance of an interview by 50% and
the black applicants' by two-thirds.
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