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Alameda County, deliver on your promise of jobs for people returning from prison!

Thursday, October 20, 2016 23:01
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(Before It's News)

Formerly incarcerated people rally for the 1,400 county jobs promised by Alameda County last June. Over the past eight years, since the county banned the box, 751 formerly incarcerated employees have been hired. – Photo: Justice Reinvestment Coalition

Formerly incarcerated people rally for the 1,400 county jobs promised by Alameda County last June. Over the past eight years, since the county banned the box, 751 formerly incarcerated employees have been hired. – Photo: Justice Reinvestment Coalition

by Bilen Mesfin

Oakland – On Oct. 11, the Justice Reinvestment Coalition of Alameda County, a network of leading social justice organizations in the Bay Area, held a march and rally calling on Alameda County to fulfill its promise to provide jobs for formerly incarcerated people.

“We all lose when we shut out thousands of people from being part of our economy,” said Prince White, program and policy campaign coordinator at Urban Peace Movement, a member of the Justice Reinvestment Coalition. “In addition to the tremendous gain in potential and talent, creating real job opportunities for people who have been involved with the criminal justice system helps us build safer communities. The County must take the necessary steps to put formerly incarcerated people on a path to success.”

“We all lose when we shut out thousands of people from being part of our economy,” said Prince White, program and policy campaign coordinator at Urban Peace Movement, a member of the Justice Reinvestment Coalition. “The County must take the necessary steps to put formerly incarcerated people on a path to success.”

In June 2016, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously (5-0) in favor of a new Re-Entry Hiring Program that aims to provide 1,400 county jobs for people impacted by the criminal justice system and youth in the school-to-prison pipeline in Alameda County. The vote on this groundbreaking program came after months of community mobilization demanding more county jobs for people who have been impacted by the criminal justice system.

At the Board of Supervisors regular Oct. 11 meeting, Alameda County Human Resource Services updated officials on the status of implementation for the program. According to the report, 50 entry-level job classifications currently exist that could be available for formerly incarcerated people.

The presentation also included proposals on expanding job opportunities with the county for formerly incarcerated individuals, including eliminating the criminal history form and creating a pathway to entry-level jobs through a new job classification that signals to formerly incarcerated people that they are welcome as employees.

According to the Human Resource Services presentation, from 2008-2015, 571 people received employment through the county’s ban the box efforts. Advocates believe this program will not only vastly improve long-term employment outcomes for Alameda County residents with arrests and convictions but also serve as a model for other counties throughout California as well as the country.

“We applaud the Board of Supervisors for unanimously supporting the Re-Entry Employment Hiring Program, and today was a step in the right direction toward full implementation,” said John Jones III, a community advocate and life coach with Communities United for Restorative Justice for Youth, a member of the Justice Reinvestment Coalition.

“Jobs, education, housing – these are the things we need to have healthy communities for all. We want jobs for our people, not dreams and false hope. We are here to fight for real opportunity so that everybody has access to real jobs. We must be partners at the table and be engaged in making it happen, and we can’t rest until this program is a reality.”

“Jobs, education, housing – these are the things we need to have healthy communities for all. We want jobs for our people, not dreams and false hope. We are here to fight for real opportunity so that everybody has access to real jobs. We must be partners at the table and be engaged in making it happen, and we can’t rest until this program is a reality.”

According to the timeline set by the Board of Supervisors, the Re-Entry Hiring Program will be implemented in January 2017 and will include job coaching and mentorship, court advocacy to assist program participants in reducing their probation terms, and training for County managers who will supervise participants in the program.

The Justice Reinvestment Coalition had called on the county to take the following actions:

  • Engage formerly incarcerated as partners in implementing the program, and recognize their skills and abilities as assets to workforce.
  • Establish a clear and transparent timeline for implementation of the Re-Entry Hiring program by establishing clear goals, evaluating outcomes, and updating policies and practices as the county learns from past actions.
  • And create a fair-chance culture so that formerly incarcerated people will thrive in their jobs by revising job announcements and eliminating automatic disqualifications for people with records and adding inclusive and affirming language signaling openness to hiring formerly incarcerated people.

“Workers who are formerly incarcerated are qualified, bring valuable skills and experience, and are ready to work, but the stigma of our past convictions holds us back,” said Sandra Johnson, a longtime Alameda County resident and a member of the Bay Area Black Workers Center, who would potentially benefit from the reentry program. “We all deserve a second chance and a fair shot at jobs so we can provide for ourselves and our loved ones.”

In the San Francisco Bay Area, many businesses have already successfully hired people with records, including D & B Painting Co., Inc., and Give Something Back Office Supplies. A 2014 Fair Chance ordinance in San Francisco spurred the hiring of hundreds of people with records who have been shown to perform as well in their jobs as employees without records.

Alameda County has provided national leadership on efforts to change how people with records are treated. In 2006, the County removed the question about arrest or conviction records from their hiring process.

About the Justice Reinvestment Coalition of Alameda County

The Justice Reinvestment Coalition of Alameda County is composed of community-based and advocacy organizations committed to creating a fair and just public safety system based on effective practices that invest in our communities, our families and our people. A fair and sustainable system eliminates criminalization and acknowledges that detention and incarceration impoverish our communities and harm public safety. Reach them on Twitter at @JRCAlamedaCounty, and on their website, at http://www.jrcac.org.

Bilen Mesfin Packwood, founder and principal of Change Consulting, LLC, can be reached by email at bilen@change-llc.com, on LinkedIn at bmesfin, on Twitter at @bmesfin, or by mail at 1999 Harrison St., Suite 1800, Oakland CA 94612.

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