Tuesday, April 4, 2017

From 'Ensuring People with Convictions Have a Fair Chance to Work', National Employment Law Project. Used with permission.

*UPDATE - Governor Holcomb will sign SB 312, but announced on April 25th that he will also sign an executive order to 'ban the box' for State employees. See the Institute's press release on the announcement, and call Governor Holcomb at 317-232-4567 or write to thank him for committing to ban the box for Indiana's public jobs!

April 4, 2017

Dear Governor Holcomb:

Despite bipartisan concerns, the Indiana General Assembly passed SB 312, a bill given the nickname “ban the Ban the Box”, which preempts local ‘fair chance’ hiring ordinances that help localities employ people with prior criminal history. As passed, the bill does not create hiring options for communities throughout Indiana which face high incarceration rates due to the opioid crisis, or for minorities and other disproportionately affected populations. Therefore, we ask that you use your authority as Governor to veto this bill unless additional measures are taken to provide meaningful employment protections that will reduce recidivism and strengthen the workforce within communities.

While the passed legislation provides negligent hiring protections for private employers, it fails to provide tools for communities with high incarceration rates, including those impacted by the current opioid crisis. National media have recently highlighted the impact of the opioid crisis on incarceration rates in Indiana’s small towns. Counties with less than 100,000 residents have seen incarceration rates spike over the past decade, even as rates fell in medium and larger counties.[1] A conservative estimate of U.S. Department of Justice data shows that Indiana has at least 1.12 million individual offenders in the state criminal history file, or more than one in every six Hoosiers.[2] Because SB 312 prevents localities from enacting fair chance hiring ordinances, as residents return to their communities in coming years, many will continue to encounter difficulties obtaining employment.

And while Indiana’s unemployment rate has steadily decreased since the recession ended, the state still has a long-term unemployment rate of 16.6% as a share of overall unemployment, many of whom are those with prior records. In addition, across the Midwest, the rate of long-term unemployment for African Americans is 10 points higher at 32% than for whites at 22%.[3] Because African-Americans comprise 14% of the U.S. population but 40% of the U.S. incarcerated population, SB 312 will have a disproportionately negative impact on Hoosier minorities, and will reinforce existing discriminatory hiring rates in the state.[4]

We commend you, Governor Holcomb, for
pardoning Keith Cooper earlier this year. But for too many Hoosiers like him, conviction and arrest records can keep them from employment even if they have the skills for the job and their history has no bearing on the duties at hand. In order to balance the negative impact that SB 312 will have on these citizens and their communities, the state must take positive steps to ensure people with records have paths to meaningful employment.

We ask you to veto SB 312 unless it is paired with an order for state agencies and political subdivision employers to ‘ban the box’ of criminal records on applications for public sector jobs, and to encourage partnerships with private employers who utilize fair chance hiring practices. Twenty-five states have taken statewide measures to ‘ban the box’ for government employees, and eight states have done so by executive action (including Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, New York, and Virginia, which have done so in the past two years). We would be happy to share resources and work with your office to support an executive order that ensures pathways for qualified people with records to public sector employment, and that encourages partnerships with employers statewide who adopt fair chance hiring.

Ensuring fair chance hiring throughout Indiana isn’t only necessary to move our workforce and economy ‘to the next level’, it’s the just thing to do for Hoosiers and their communities.

Sincerely,

Signed:

American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana

Amy Nelson, Executive Director, Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana

Indiana Coalition for Human Services

Ed Gerardot, Executive Director, Indiana Community Action Association

Jessica Fraser, Director, Indiana Institute for Working Families

Barbara Bolling-Williams, President, Indiana State Conference NAACP

Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council

Tony Mason, President and CEO, the Indianapolis Urban League

The League of Women Voters of Indiana

Christine Kerl, Steering Committee Chair, Marion County Re-entry Coalition

Rhiannon Edwards, Executive Director, Public Advocates in Community Re-Entry Indianapolis

Charles Neal, Director of Peer Development, RecycleForce



[1] Keller, Josh, and Adam Pearce. "This small Indiana county sends more people to prison than San Francisco and Durham, NC, combined. Why?" The New York TImes, September 2, 2016. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/02/upshot/new-geography-of-prisons.html.
[2] U.S. Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs Bureau of Justice Statistics Survey of State Criminal History Information Systems, 2012. Figure reduced by 30% to deal with duplicate multi-state files. https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/bjs/grants/244563.pdf
[3] Economic Policy Institute analysis of Current Population Survey data.

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