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Photo by andjohan | flickr creative commons

Applying for a job is tough, particularly in this challenging economic climate. All applicants struggle with intense competition for a select number of positions. Frustration and anxiety are common and understandable emotions. For those Californians with a criminal history, the obstacles for getting employment often appear insurmountable.

Job applications often ask individuals to indicate if they have been convicted of a crime. This seemingly disqualifies justice-involved individuals who may be highly skilled and want to return to their communities. Analysis by the National Employment Law Project shows the deleterious effect such discriminatory hiring policies have on the estimated 65 million Americans with a criminal history. If individuals cannot find employment, how can they be expected to earn a living or support their families?

Governor Brown currently has legislation before his desk that would address this discriminatory hiring practice. Assembly Bill (AB) 218, authored by Assemblymember Roger Dickinson, would prohibit use of conviction history questions on applications for public employment. The policy still allows employers to conduct background checks and inquire about prior criminal histories. That said, AB 218 gives justice-involved applicants a chance to show their qualifications to potential employers. The City of Richmond recently passed similar legislation.

Meaningful employment improves public safety outcomes and expands the state tax base. As such, AB 218 recognizes that many Californians, with prior involvement in the juvenile and criminal justice system, deserve a second chance to succeed. Both the Los Angeles Times and the New York Times have issued editorials in support of AB 218. As the New York Times noted:

This measure will help remove unfair barriers to employment that keep millions of qualified workers trapped at the margins of society. Gov. Jerry Brown should sign this sensible bill.”

CJCJ agrees, and we urge Governor Brown to sign AB 218 today.