By Jimmy Preston
Blog Content Contributor
*KTSW consists of and respects varying opinions within its staff. Opinion articles do not reflect the opinion of KTSW as a whole.
The opinion that government is inefficient and only favors the few is being put to the test up the road from San Marcos. A new political group, The Second Chance Democrats of Austin, is working toward a more equitable Austin. The group came together in late 2015 to push for Fair Chance Hiring for people with records in Austin.
“Millions of qualified job applicants in the country are plagued by a past record and are discouraged from applying to employment because a ‘box’ on job applications requires conviction history information that leads many employers to unfairly reject job seekers. When people with records are shut out of jobs, public health and safety suffer. Already hard-hit communities of color are particularly impacted.” – Nelp.org
Fair Chance Hiring in the news lately is often referred to as, “Ban the Box.” This over simplification can lead to confusion about the lengths that Fair Chance Hiring initiatives go to remove barriers for the formerly incarcerated. Removing the box from job applications inquiring about conviction history is just one part of the effort. The Fair Chance Hiring proposal, which will move to the full City Council in early March, will go further to set up fair hiring practices that can help remove the obstacles leading to employment. These policies will move the question of past conviction history to later in the hiring process. Background checks will move further along in the process after top candidates are identified. The Second Chance Democrats of Austin are hopeful that any ordinance that passes will include measures to track that these policies are being followed by Austin employers.
Many times, an individual’s chances of getting hired end when conviction history is brought up. NELP estimates that nearly 70 million Americans have a conviction history.
Fair Chance Hiring initiatives do not just benefit people with records. Studies show that the economy can benefit by reducing unemployment, public safety increases by employing the formerly incarcerated and those with records can provide for their families and children. Jacqueline Conn, Chair of SCD, thinks FCH will allow those with records to out live their conviction history.
“People need a pathway to regain citizenship into society,” Conn said. “Right now we have a lot of Jim Crow laws and the only healing available for us is to come together and speak up for change.”
The Second Chance Democrats are hosting a “Neighborhood Party” this Saturday to reach out to the community they hope to benefit. The party will have food (generously provided by Gourmand’s Neighborhood Pub), root beer floats and live AfroColumbiano music. The party starts at 5 p.m. and ends around 7 p.m., so it’s a perfect start to an evening. Everyone knows the best nights on the town start with a bit of political activism.