I attended a screening of a terrific film on Tuesday night – THE EVOLUTION OF A CRIMINAL – by a young man named Darius Clark Monroe, who is a film student at NYU. The film is his personal story.
After the film, there was a discussion with Matt Taufeete, the founder and spirit behind First LAP (Life After Prison). Matt’s personal story and the film moved people. The comments reflected that: “we must remove the stigma of a conviction so folks have a chance to start over”; “the film was transformative”; “He was lucky he had strong family support”; “He apologized”; “he was courageous”.
In a scene with some of his professors at NYU, they were shocked by the film because they never knew he had a criminal record. Some said that they would probably not have given him a chance or would have treated him differently if they knew he had a record.
That leads into today’s post: a new report from the Center for Economic Progress entitled “One Strike and You’re Out” about the barriers that formerly incarcerated folks face every day.
CAP worries because 95% of businesses use criminal background checks and several of these companies have been providing unreliable information to businesses. Qualified people have been denied jobs because of typos in names and social security numbers and because some convictions have been noted multiple times. The first company to get busted was fined more than $2 million…and many, many people were harmed by their actions.
One Strike and You’re Out
How We Can Eliminate Barriers to Economic Security and Mobility for People with Criminal Records
Rebecca Vallas and Sharon Dietrich, Center for American Progress, December 2, 2014
“Between 70 million and 100 million Americans—or as many as one in three—have a criminal record. Many have only minor offenses, such as misdemeanors and nonserious infractions; others have only arrests without conviction. Nonetheless, because of the rise of technology and the ease of accessing data via the Internet—in conjunction with federal and state policy decisions—having even a minor criminal history now carries lifelong barriers that can block successful re-entry and participation in society. This has broad implications—not only for the millions of individuals who are prevented from moving on with their lives and becoming productive citizens but also for their families, communities, and the national economy.
Today, a criminal record serves as both a direct cause and consequence of poverty. It is a cause because having a criminal record can present obstacles to employment, housing, public assistance, education, family reunification, and more; convictions can result in monetary debts as well. It is a consequence due to the growing criminalization of poverty and homelessness. One recent study finds that our nation’s poverty rate would have dropped by 20 percent between 1980 and 2004 if not for mass incarceration and the subsequent criminal records that haunt people for years after they have paid their debt to society. Failure to address this link as part of a larger anti-poverty agenda risks missing a major piece of the puzzle. …
“…The lifelong consequences of having a criminal record—and the stigma that accompanies one—stand in stark contrast to research on “redemption” that documents that once an individual with a prior nonviolent conviction has stayed crime free for three to four years, that person’s risk of recidivism is no different from the risk of arrest for the general population. Put differently, people are treated as criminals long after they pose any significant risk of committing further crimes—making it difficult for many to move on with their lives and achieve basic economic security, let alone have a shot at upward mobility.
“The United States must therefore craft policies to ensure that Americans with criminal records have a fair shot at making a decent living, providing for their families, and joining the middle class. This will benefit not only the tens of millions of individuals who face closed doors due to a criminal record but also their families, their communities, and the economy as a whole.”
A rising tide lifts all boats. We all prosper when EVERYONE PROSPERS. Mahalo for your interest in building healthy, safe, and just communities. CAP is thankful that there are people like you who want to create a better world. WE CAN DO THIS…TOGETHER!