SEATTLE – Councilmember Bruce Harrell, chair of the Council’s Public Safety, Civil Rights and Technology Committee, issued the following statement regarding President Obama’s “Ban the Box” announcement today:
“I applaud President Obama’s order to ‘ban the box’ during the hiring process for federal government employees. Statements like, ‘felons need not apply’ on job applications have been barriers for employment and opportunity for millions in this country seeking re-entry into society. Research also points to racial bias and inequality for many minorities.
“Seattle has been at the forefront of reforming the criminal justice system and working to address the root causes of institutional practices that leads to recidivism. We worked with the community and Seattle’s ‘ban the box’ law took effect November 1, 2013. Data from the 2013 Job Assistance ‘ban the box’ Legislation has demonstrated laws helping individuals gain access to jobs benefits Seattle’s economy and reduces recidivism.
“The work continues and in the upcoming months we will pursue a new certificate program to help individuals with criminal histories gain access to jobs that require a vocational license. Currently, a person with a criminal record cannot attain jobs in more than 90 career paths that require vocational licenses, including barbers, commercial fishers, or dental hygienists. The Certificate for Restoration of Opportunity Program (CROP) would allow an individual to file for a civil motion certifying that the required time had passed, without any new arrests or convictions, and that they meet all the terms of their sentence. A CROP will assist a person successfully re-enter society.
“Additionally, for the 2016 budget, I am seeking $50,000 to conduct fair employment bias testing. The employment testing will seek to determine if employment opportunities are influenced by a person’s perceived race, accent, sexual orientation or other protected characteristics. Above all, I am most proud of the opportunity that we will afford people to rebuild their lives.”