Lawyers’ Committee Applauds SF Supervisors’ Unanimous Passage of Fair Chance Ordinance

Law removes automatic barriers to jobs and housing, allowing people with prior criminal records a chance to compete based on their individual merits

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Media Contact: Candice Francis / Communications Director, LCCR /  415.543.9697 x216 / cfrancis@lccr.com

San Francisco (February 4, 2014) – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area is pleased to announce the passage today of the Fair Chance Act by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. Introduced by Supervisor Jane Kim, and co-sponsored by Supervisor Malia Cohen, the Fair Chance Act will strengthen and expand the City’s current fair hiring policies, known commonly as “ban the box,” to private businesses, affordable housing, and contracting, and remove unnecessary barriers to stable housing and employment for individuals with conviction records. Passage of the Fair Chance Act is the latest victory in a growing, nationwide movement to create fairer standards and procedures for employers and affordable housing providers when they inquire into an applicant’s conviction history. The ordinance seeks to address the barriers faced by the estimated 1 in 4 Californians with an arrest or conviction record, allowing these individuals an opportunity to compete for jobs and housing. In particular, the ordinance will help to open up opportunities for low-income people and people of color, who are disproportionately affected by the criminal justice system.

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights applauds this important step forward. Through the Second Chance Legal Clinic, the Lawyers’ Committee works directly with people impacted by the stigma of a prior record, providing free legal assistance to people with prior arrests and convictions who are struggling to overcome their past mistakes and become equal and contributing members of the community. “What we see in our clients’ experiences is that too often the background check trumps everything, and qualified employees are categorically screened out of jobs,” says Lawyers’ Committee staff attorney Meredith Desautels. “We need common sense policies, like this ordinance, that delay the background check and allow people to be considered based on their qualifications, not solely on the check mark in the criminal convictions box.”

“The health, safety and wellbeing of San Francisco’s communities depend on increasing access to employment and housing opportunities for people with arrest or conviction records in order for them to effectively reintegrate into the community and provide for their families and themselves,” says Supervisor Kim. “Barriers to these opportunities for people increases recidivism and thereby jeopardizes the safety of the public, and disrupts the financial and overall stability of affected families and our communities.” Supervisor Cohen, co-sponsor of the legislation added, “This was born out of a desire to provide real employment and housing opportunities for people with a conviction history,” she said.

“Access to housing and employment is key to preventing recidivism and increasing public safety in our community.”

The legislation was unanimously endorsed by the Land Use Committee on February 3rd and by the full Board on February 4th. It is expected to be signed by Mayor Lee in the coming weeks. As part of this campaign, the Lawyers’ Committee worked with numerous community partners, including Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, National Employment Law Project, All of Us or None, Community Housing Partnership, and the Coalition on Homelessness. Additional stakeholders who supported passage of this legislation, include the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, the Sheriff’s department, and the District Attorney’s office.