Human Rights for Ex-Offenders
Last year alone, nearly 6,000 ex-offenders were returned from prison to the city of Cleveland. In Cuyahoga County, there are thousands more ex-offenders who never went to prison, yet carry their criminal record forever.
A huge portion of these Clevelanders live in Council District 7.
These ex-offenders face the same awful job environment we all do, with one profound difference. Without exception, job applications ask if you’ve been convicted of a crime.
By forcing applicants to check that one box, employers shift the burden of vetting their own workforce onto the most vulnerable job applicants, forcing ex-offenders to scrawl a scarlet letter onto their job application, every time they dare to hope. Human dignity is sacrificed on the puny altar of an employer’s pathetic public relations paranoia.
It is wrong, and it must stop.
There is no justifiable reason employers should extract from ex-offenders an extra-judicial price for their mistakes the rest of their lives, simply so a corporate human resources department can easily sort out checked boxes. If it is that important to an employer that their workforce does not include ex-offenders, the burden should be on the employer to conduct background checks at an appropriate point in the employment process.
This gives ex-offender job applicants a chance. A chance to hope. A chance to prove their worth. And it gives employers a chance to judge all applicants based on merit, to decide if a qualified ex-offender is worth that second chance after hearing them out, before the prejudice of a punitive process stamps them useless.
That is why the first bill I will introduce as County Councilor for District 7 will be a Human Rights for Ex-Offenders Act. Such legislation has been proposed in the District of Columbia City Council by none other than famed ex-offender and now city councilman Marion Barry himself.
The act makes it illegal to discriminate in employment and access to public services on the basis of criminal record unrelated to the job or the service.
They call Cleveland the Mistake On The Lake.
It is time to no longer be defined by our mistakes.