Author Archives: CCRC Staff

Increase in Delaware pardons “driven by getting jobs”

imagesbluehenDelaware Governor Jack Markell has granted more than 1500 pardons in his six years in office, substantially more than any of his predecessors.  According  to articles by Chris Barrish and Jonathan Starkey in the Delaware News Journal, the “dramatic increase” in the number of people applying for pardon in Delaware has been “driven by getting jobs.”  In defending his record of generous pardoning, Governor Markell noted that the state had adopted 50 new background check requirements for employment in the past several years, and that people with convictions need a governor’s pardon to enable them to overcome the stigma of conviction to obtain employment and stay on the road to rehabilitation.  The two articles are here and here.

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“Preventing Background Screeners from Reporting Expunged Criminal Cases”

www.povertylawIn an article published this week by the Shriver Center, Preventing Background Screeners from Reporting Expunged Criminal Cases, Sharon Dietrich offers helpful advice for advocates on to how to combat the problem posed by the reporting of expunged and sealed criminal records by private commercial background screening services. Her advice is based partly on her own organization’s participation in litigation under the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act (“FCRA”) against one of the country’s larger background screeners — an experience that she recounts in detail.

Dietrich identifies the problem of improper private reporting of expunged records as one that “threatens to undermine the whole strategy of broadening expungement as a remedy for the harm of collateral consequences.” She describes the underlying issue as follows:

 [T]he commercial background-screening industry, which runs the lion’s share of the background checks obtained by employers and landlords, sometimes reports those expunged cases long after they have been removed from the public record. Companies in the background-screening industry typically maintain their own privately held databases of criminal cases from which they generate background checks. When updating their data from public sources (often state courts), these screeners often do not use methods to determine whether cases that were reported by their sources have been removed (i.e., expunged or sealed), and they continue to report them.

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“Database Infamia: Exit from the Sex Offender Registries”

Update (5/14/15)We have published a 50 state chart detailing relief from registration requirements on the Restoration of Rights page. The chart is based in part on Wayne Logan’s work. You can find the chart at this link.


 

There has been a lot of discussion about how one gets ON a sex offender registry.  Now Wayne Logan has given us a fascinating study of what it takes to get OFF in different U.S. jurisdictions.  His article, forthcoming in the Wisconsin Law Review, is a must-read for any practitioner, and a helpful guide to law reformers in many jurisdictions.  Its title is “Database Infamia: Exit from the Sex Offender Registries,” and its abstract follows:

Since originating in the early-mid 1990s, sex offender registration and community notification laws have swept the country, now affecting the lives of hundreds of thousands of individuals. The laws require that individuals provide, update and at least annually verify personal identifying information, which governments make publicly available via the Internet and other means. Typically retrospective in their reach, and sweeping in their breadth, the laws can target individuals for their lifetimes, imposing multiple hardships. This symposium contribution surveys the extent to which states now afford registrants an opportunity to secure relief from registration and community notification and examines the important legal and policy ramifications of the limited exit options made available.

Federal fair chance hiring proposal advances

The following note was received today from the National Employment Law Project:

We wanted to report back on the exciting progress in support of the federal fair chance hiring initiative, which builds on the momentum from the sign-on letter to the President that your organizations endorsed.

On March 25th, representatives from NELP, All of Us or None, PICO National Network and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice met with White House and Labor Department officials to present the letter signed by nearly 200 organizations and urge immediate federal action.  The news about the sign-on letter and the White House meeting was covered in an excellent exclusive that appeared in Politico (check it out) the day of the meeting.  The sign-on letter was also featured in an op-ed by a Florida small business owner (and a member of our partners at the Main Street Alliance) in The Guardian, in an NNPA syndicated story picked up by several news outlets, as well as in a National Law Review story.

In addition, thanks to the active engagement of your organizations, the social media around the initiative is also picking up steam. The Facebook image (attached) produced over 60,000 views, and it was shared by nearly 1,000 people.  During the one-hour “tweet storm” on the 25th, there were 250 unique tweets using the #FairChance or #BanTheBox hashtags (a special shout out goes to Danny Glover, whose tweet led the way with most retweets).  In just a few short months, we’re building a serious social media following thanks again to all of you.

Based on the feedback we received at the meetings on the 25th, all the support from your organizations, the press and the social media is getting the Administration’s attention – they have made clear that they are taking a serious look at the proposal to issue an Executive Order and Presidential Memo to extend fair chance hiring/ban the box to federal contractors and the federal hiring process.   Now, it’s all about  continuing to build the grassroots and public pressure to move the Administration to act.  Your continued active involvement is critical to the success of the effort.

On another positive note, we wanted to also share the news that Virginia Governor McAuliffe issued a strong executive order today extending fair chance hiring to all state positions (and urging the private sector to do the same).  McAuliffe’s action got the attention of Valerie Jarrett, President Obama’s Senior Advisor, who tweeted out her support using the #BantheBox hashtag.  Please take minute to retweet it as well.

Thanks again everyone for all your amazing support! We’ll be in touch soon with more details and next steps.

Best,
Maurice

Maurice Emsellem, Director
Access and Opportunity Program
National Employment Law Project
(510) 663-5700

Should a criminal record ruin a career?

logoThe Atlantic has published an excellent article about the permanently disabling effects of a criminal record, by two attorneys at the East Bay Community Law Center (Oakland, CA), Sarah Crowley and Alex Bender (an Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Fellow).  Haunted by the Past: A Criminal Record Shouldn’t Ruin a Career, March 25, 2015.  The authors argue, based on their experiences in their practice, that “too many applicants, particularly people of color, are being denied jobs based on background checks that are irrelevant or even inaccurate.”   They describe the sources of inaccuracy and other unreliability in criminal background checks, even ones based on fingerprinting.  But then they focus on the real problem, which is that over-reliance on background checks “inevitably screens out qualified, trustworthy job applicants.”

They tell the story of one woman whose dated misdemeanor convictions deprived a California group home of a valuable employee:  Read more

GAO reports on use of FBI records checks for employment purposes

FBI.indexThe Government Accountability Office has made public a long-awaited report to Congress on the use of FBI records by state agencies and private companies for employment-related background checks.  The report addresses three questions:
1. To what extent do states conduct FBI criminal history record checks for selected employment sectors and what challenges, if any, do they face in conducting these checks?
2. To what extent have states made progress in improving the completeness of criminal history records and what challenges remain that federal agencies can help mitigate?
3. To what extent do private companies conduct record checks, what benefits do they provide, how are they regulated, and what challenges do they face?

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President plans “aggressive” use of pardon power to commute drug sentences but perhaps not to relieve collateral consequences

HUFFFor the third time in six weeks, President Obama has spoken on the record about his intention to make more “aggressive” use of his pardon power in the final months of his term to commute long drug sentences.   It appears he really means it — and the only thing that may stop him from setting a modern record (perhaps even more impressive than the drug commutations of John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson) is the pace of recommendations coming from the Justice Department via Clemency Project 2014.  (Comments on his other recent statements are here and here.)

Hopefully the President will grant more full pardons as well, though his comments on that score have been less encouraging.

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New York Times editors question efficacy of expungement laws

In an editorial titled “Job Hunting With a Criminal Record,” the editors of the New York Times tackle the problem of employment discrimination against the estimated 70 million Americans who “carry the burden of a criminal record.”  They question the efficacy of expungement and other popular “forgetting” strategies for dealing with employer aversion to risk, preferring the “longer term” approach of “a change in attitudes about people with criminal records.”

The editorial points out that expungement laws typically apply only to “relatively minor transgressions,” require lengthy waiting periods, and include “significant exceptions” (e.g., they don’t apply to jobs and licenses requiring a background check, a large and growing segment of the labor market). In addition, “trying to keep anything secret in the 21st century is no sure thing.”  Finally, “record-sealing laws do not and cannot address the underlying problem of overcriminalization.”

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New York Times weighs in on college applications and criminal records

BoxedOut.untitledThe New York Times has published an editorial about the recently issued report of the Center for Community Alternatives on the deterrent effect of questions about criminal records on applications for admission to the State University of New York.  (See the piece about the report “Boxed Out: Criminal History Screening and College Attrition” by CCA Director Alan Rosenthal published in this space 10 days ago.)  The editorial notes that the 24 campuses of the CUNY system do not include “the box” asking about criminal record on their application forms and have reported no safety issues as a result.  Perhaps this will be one of those rare cases where effective public advocacy highlighted in editorial pages will actually have a concrete result.

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NH Supreme Court takes aim at federal felon-in-possession statute

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In an important decision for firearms-related collateral consequences, the New Hampshire Supreme Court relied on the Second Amendment to carve out an exception to the so-called federal felon-in-possession statute, declining to follow relevant federal court precedents. At stake is whether state or federal courts have the last word on the scope of the exceptions in 18 U.S.C. 921(a)(20).  In DuPont v. Nashua Police Department, the court held that a man convicted of a misdemeanor DUI, who as a result lost his right to possess a firearm under state and federal law, was able to avoid federal firearms disability by virtue of the restoration of his state firearms rights, even though he lost none of the traditional “core” civil rights (vote, office, jury).  In order to get to this result, the court had to conclude that the right to possess a firearm is itself a civil right, whose loss and restoration under state law is sufficient to satisfy the “civil rights restored” requirement in 921(a)(20), thus creating a narrow but significant exception to the U.S. Supreme Court’s holding in Logan v. United States.

While the holding in DuPont applies only to a limited class of misdemeanants (those who lost and regained state firearms rights), the decision may be the opening salvo in a state backlash against federal efforts to define the scope of state relief recognized in 921(a)(20).

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