New Report Highlights Difficult Road Individuals with Criminal Convictions Face

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The Californians for Safety and Justice (CSJ) recently issued a report highlighting the difficulties those with a criminal past face in society. As published in Repairing the Road to Redemption in California, an estimated eight (8) million people living in California have prior criminal convictions. Those individuals face over 4,800 laws that may negatively impact their day-to-day lives.
To prepare this report, the CSJ organized the Second Chances Advisory Committee which included “content expert stakeholders” to study the impact of collateral consequences those with prior criminal history face. These consequences include “loss of civil rights, parental rights, public benefits, employment opportunities, housing eligibility, and the freedom to live and work without restriction.”

Employment Impact of Criminal Convictions

From an employment perspective, 46% of individuals reported difficulty in finding a job (about 5 in 10) which is important as the report cites the inability to obtain sufficient employment as a potential indicator of the likelihood for future criminal behavior (referred to as recidivism). In analyzing national and state-specific laws, the report notes that roughly 32,000 laws exist across the country regarding criminal records and occupational or business licensing.[1] For many individuals with criminal history, they may be automatically excluded from entire industries such as healthcare, finance and education.
Compounding the problem are the fines and other fees that accompany committing a crime. According to a study cited by the report, the average debt individuals face following a criminal conviction is $13,607.[2] Little to no employment opportunities and notable debt places those individuals searching for a second chance at a severe disadvantage.

Policy Recommendations

The report provided several policy recommendations such as automatic purging of criminal information after a set period of time, consolidating the expungement process and reducing barriers to occupational licenses. California has gained a reputation as one of the progressive states in the nation so it’s plausible some, if not all, of these recommendations find a legislative vehicle in the state’s next legislative session.

State and Local Laws Impacting Employers

California has already taken numerous steps to help ease the barriers individuals with a criminal past face in employment. In the past several years, statewide regulations and a statewide ban the box law were implemented regulating employers’ inquiring into and use of criminal history information. On top of the state requirements, Los Angeles and San Francisco also have fair chance laws on the books that weave in additional obligations and restrictions. For more information about these laws, download our Ban the Box guide.

[1] The report cites the following: National Inventory of Collateral Consequences of Conviction (“NICCC”). (2016). Niccc.csgjusticecenter.org. Retrieved from https://niccc.csgjusticecenter.org/search/?jurisdiction=10.
[2] The report cites the following: deVuono-powell, S., Schweidler, C., Walters, A., & Zohrabi, A. (2015). Who Pays? The True Cost Of Incarceration On Families (p. 13). Ella Baker Center, Forward Together, Research Action Design. Retrieved from http://ellabakercenter.org/sites/default/files/downloads/who-pays.pdf.