One in three working-age Americans has a felony criminal record, and up to 75 percent of individuals released from either prison or jail are unemployed after a year. Some businesses are hesitant to hire former inmates: more than 60 percent of employers say they would not hire someone with a criminal record, even though a recent study by the Society of Human Resources Managers found that 82 percent of managers and 67 percent of HR professionals who have experience working with the justice-involved population believe that “the quality of hire for workers with criminal records is as high or higher than that for workers without records.” To help those who have paid their debt to society find work, today the Board of Supervisors approved a motion, authored by Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda L. Solis and co-authored by Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, to launch a countywide campaign to encourage more businesses to adopt fair chance hiring practices.

“Employees with past records are sometimes more qualified for particular jobs than people who do not have a record. Hiring rehabilitated people with past records is often smart business. Through fair chance hiring, companies can find a pool of qualified, talented individuals with a wide range of experiences that could help businesses better serve their customers and could result in stronger profit outcomes,” said Supervisor Solis. “Stable employment can help also ensure that individuals will not reoffend, which creates safer communities. We all benefit when companies eliminate barriers that prevent rehabilitated individuals from finding work.”

“It is our responsibility as a County to provide a ‘fair chance’ to anyone who aspires to become a productive citizen,” said Supervisor Ridley-Thomas, co-author of this motion and related motions in years past. “Expanding employment opportunities for the formerly incarcerated reduces recidivism, breaks the cycle of homelessness and fosters economic growth. That is smart policy making, and I commend our County departments and the private sector for stepping up as partners in this endeavor.”

In July 2017, the Board of Supervisors established a Fair Chance Taskforce to promote the adoption of fair chance hiring practices within the County and to increase awareness among the larger business community. The motion was amended following the passage of the State’s Fair Chance Act, which took effect in January 2018. Under this California law, also known as “ban the box,” employers cannot ask applicants questions about their conviction history before a job offer.

In January 2018, the Board of Supervisors directed the Taskforce to develop an educational campaign to educate employees and employers on their rights and responsibilities under the Fair Chance Act. Despite the Taskforce’s significant progress, people with past criminal histories still face ongoing barriers to employment.

Today’s motion directs the Department of Workforce Development, Aging and Community Service (WDACS), the Department of Consumer and Business Affairs (DCBA), the Department of Human Resources, the Office of Diversion and Reentry, Probation, the Department of Public Social Services (DPSS), and the County’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), and other relevant departments, to report back in 30 days with a business engagement plan to increase the hiring of justice-involved individuals. In addition, this motion also directs WDACS to work with the CEO on a detailed budget and funding proposal.