DC Returning Citizens facts

1. Federal statutes prohibit employment of ex-offenders with certain criminal convictions in certain jobs including certain airport jobs, armored car crew members, and any jobs in employee benefit plans.

2. In DC employers and occupational licensing agencies can ask about arrests that never led to conviction unless the record has been sealed, and can refuse to hire or license anyone with a criminal record no matter their qualifications.  There are no opportunities for people with criminal records to obtain restoration of civil rights or certificates of rehabilitation for employment purposes.  Records are available on the Internet.

3. Employers can be held liable for the criminal actions of their employees under the theory of negligent hiring which states that “..employers who know, or should have known, that an employee has had a history of criminal behavior may be liable for the employee’s criminal or tortuous acts.”

4. Many employers do not want to hire returning citizens. In surveys only about 40% said they were willing to even consider hiring a returning citizen. In 2002 an academic sent employers in Milwaukee applications from four groups of imaginery male job applicants with virtually identical educational and work experience credentials. They were split into white and black citizens and returning citizens. Returning citizens were said to have been incarcerated for 18 months for a non-violent drug sale. White citizens received offers from 34% of employers, white returning citizens received offers from 17%, black citizens received offers from 14% and black returning citizens received offers from just 5% of employers.

5. Returning citizens often do not have academic qualifications. One study found that 70% of returning citizens do not have a high school diploma.

6. Returning citizens have gaps in their work experience as a result of being in prison and often had limited work experience prior to detention.

7. Returning citizens are more likely to live in stigmatised areas.

8. Returning citizens are more likely to be a member of a race that is discriminated against by employers.

Connerley, M (2001) Criminal background checks for prospective and current employees: Current practices among municipal agencies Public Personnel Management, Vol 30(2)

Holzer, H. (2003) Employment Dimensions of Reentry: Understanding the Nexus between Prisoner Reentry and Work New York University Law School

Hirsch, A. et al (2002) Every Door Closed: Barriers Facing Parents With Criminal Records Center for Law and Social Policy and Community Legal Service

Legal Action Center (2009) After Prison: Roadblock to Reentry http://www.lac.org/roadblocks-to-reentry/upload/reportcards/58_Image_DC%20Report%20Card%20alf.pdf

Pager, D (2002) The Mark of a Criminal Record U.S. Department of Justice https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/198320.pdf

Travis, J et al (2001) From Prison to Home: The Dimensions and Consequences of Prisoner Reentry The Urban Institute

Returning Citizens

Close your eyes for a minute and imagine a drug criminal. What race is the person you imagined? If you are like 95% of people in America, you imagined a black man, even though African Americans are slightly less likely than Whites or Hispanics to use illegal drugs.

Our racist beliefs about drug use cause real damage to people and communities in DC. Nine out of 10 people in D.C.’s Department of Corrections are African American. Almost all of them are incarcerated for nonviolent offenses. This is not small scale. The Community Supervision Program supervises 16,200 on any given day.

There is no sign of improvement. Even though there is less and less crime each year, more and more African Americans (men and women) are being arrested, mostly for nonviolent drug offences, mostly in Southeast DC.

Arresting Black people is a major industry in DC. Even though the Mayor has cut funding for parks, education and housing, the police and Attorney General are getting increased resources every year. Millions and millions of dollars of our money are being spent arresting Black people for nonviolent drug offenses.

Being arrested and sent to jail can ruin your life. Employers are legally allowed to discriminate against people with criminal records, and they do. One study sent out imaginary CVs to hundreds of companies. They found that 14% of companies offered jobs to Black men, but only 5% offered jobs to Black men with a criminal record, even though they had exactly the same qualifications.