East County News Service
April 7, 2017 (San Diego) -- Reps. Darrell Issa, former Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, and Elijah E. Cummings, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, have introduced the bipartisan, bicameral Fair Chance Act that would give formerly incarcerated Americans a fair chance at obtaining employment with the federal government. Senator Booker introduced a companion bill in the Senate.
“The best way to prevent people from returning to lives of crime is to ensure that those leaving the criminal justice system have reasonable opportunities to become productive members of society,” Issa says. “Unfortunately, the current system makes it difficult for those trying to turn their lives around to find jobs or other opportunities to move forward. Regardless of their skills or qualifications, they’re often passed over for employment and are forced to pay for their mistakes long after they’ve done their time. The message we inadvertently end up sending is that those who commit a crime will never be given a second chance. The Fair Chance Act, which we’re introducing today, will go a long way in helping to break the cycle of crime, restoring hope, and giving many Americans opportunities to turn their lives around.”
The Fair Chance Act would:
- ban the federal government—including the executive, legislative, and judicial branches—from requesting criminal history information from applicants until they reach the conditional offer stage;
- prohibit federal contractors from requesting criminal history information from candidates for positions within the scope of federal contracts until the conditional offer stage;
- include important exceptions for positions related to law enforcement and national security duties, positions requiring access to classified information, and positions for which access to criminal history information before the conditional offer stage is required by law; and
- require the Department of Labor, Census Bureau, and Bureau of Justice Statistics to issue a report on the employment statistics of formerly incarcerated individuals.
Cummings and Issa led the House introduction of the bipartisan, bicameral Fair Chance Act in the 114th Congress, and Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Ron Johnson (R-WI) introduced the bill in the Senate. Less than four weeks after introduction, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, chaired by Johnson, marked up and passed the bill unanimously.
In May of last year, Cummings and more than 70 Members of the House sent a letter to President Obama urging him to adopt “ban the box” hiring policies in the federal government, and in November, the Office of Personnel Management issued a final rule promoting fair chance hiring policies.
Due in part to significant grassroots efforts across the country, states and cities have been implementing Ban the Box policies to help people with criminal records overcome the barrier to employment of having to “check the box” on job applications. Eighteen states and more than 100 cities and counties have taken action, and companies such as Walmart, Koch Industries, Target, Home Depot, Starbucks, and Bed, Bath & Beyond have also embraced Ban the Box policies.