Monday, December 16, 2013

Life Sentence

No I don't mean that kind that puts you in Dead Man Walking classification, I mean any kind of criminal record.  It doesn't matter if it was an indiscretion from years ago, a bad marriage and in turn issues that spun out of control, it doesn't matter if was a serious felony and you have served your time and are fully "rehabilitated".  That charge of driving while intoxicated that you pled to reckless driving is still in fact a criminal charge. Surprise those plea bargains.. not really.

In our increasing criminalized and penalized society it seems as if even the most innocuous of charges, such as criminal trespass matters.  Yes if you protested the war, occupied wall street or committed an act of civil disobedience you are a member of the club.

Now some of them may be overlooked and under reported, but for many Americans the hurdles to getting jobs seem endless. From credit reports to background checks you are facing a high bar in which to fly over.

There is an increasing move to change that but of course like all legislation and laws there are exceptions to the rules and of course more holes than cheese that is swiss.

Now of course there are challenges and current cities and states trying to do their best to somehow get good people employed. We have heard the pandering and proselytizing but in reality once you are in the system you are in forever.  And the Federal Government is also fueled by filing lawsuits to end the discriminatory practice of using background checks to not hire people setting the wingnut nation into abject paranoia. 

Yes you can expunge and or vacate a record from public prying eyes but that requires Attorney's. Oh God and those people aren't exactly racing to help the poor Dollar worker or the BMW applicants described in this article. 

And there are more than ample sites that will be happy to "investigate"any employee down to the warts on their asses. This is my favorite paranoid site:  No stone left unturned for what exactly?  How many gigs do that they need this type of investigation? Who are you hiring? The Fugitive?   And honestly is McDonald's doing this for a burger flipper? I mean its bad enough the Dollar store clerk.   But fear and factor work in getting compliance and cooperation.

And we have legislators  on one hand saying we need to do something and then in turn j time adding more "crimes" that cannot be expunged or vacated ever. My favorite here in Washington State: DUI's. Domestic Violence and Child Pornography.

I honestly have no words to think that the first two have anything even remotely comparable to the latter and really?  Those seem to be highly charged emotional issues and often ones that are victimless despite what the media says. And frankly we all know that little Domestic Violence is reported and prosecuted although here in Seattle it is required that ONE of the participants is placed in jail.  That will work out well in an overheated family argument that in turn will escalate to the jailed individual possibly losing their job and then really feeling disconnected and disenfranchised have no problem escalating that felony conviction to further assault or murder.   Or in this case - death in police custody.

 I have posted many times about the acts of gun violence, including one by a Police Officer, with regards to domestic issues and resolution the hard and permanent way.  Counseling and relocation might be more beneficial but hey let's put this person with clear anger management issues in the category of a child pornographer or some hapless idiot who had two glasses of wine and got stopped and frisked.  We really do exaggerate the danger of driving while intoxicated.. remember you don't need .08 to be "under the influence"... but don't worry you will get an expensive attorney and plea it to Reckless as that can be vacated.  That DUI however it's a life sentence.

So if you rape someone, commit an act of human trafficking (this one is my personal favorite as it is a police officer doing so), are a drug dealer, violent felon hey don't worry in a few years a nice Attorney for 10K can remove that and that job at the Amazon warehouse is all yours as that is expungeable.  Really! Oh wait if you are working in the warehouse I guess not.

The article below discusses the long term desire in New Jersey to improve the working lives of Americans. Maybe. I doubt it.

We have a similar law in Seattle and again stand behind it you will feel a breeze.

On June 10, 2013, the Seattle City Council passed an ordinance significantly restricting private employers’ ability to rely on criminal background checks to screen applicants for jobs in the City of Seattle. Once in effect, employers will no longer be able to inquire about a job applicant’s criminal history at the initial application stage—a so-called “ban the box” approach. The ordinance further prohibits employers from taking adverse employment action against job applicants or employees based on criminal conduct, unless such conduct will have a negative impact on the applicant’s or employee’s ability to do the job sought, or will harm or cause injury to people, property, or business assets. All employment decisions are subject to investigation and review by the Seattle Office for Civil Rights.
The ordinance covers all private employers with one or more employees, and applies to all positions requiring at least 50 percent of working time within the City of Seattle.
Key aspects of the Seattle ordinance
  • Employers cannot inquire about an applicant’s criminal background until after the employee completes an “initial screening” to eliminate unqualified applicants.
  • Employers cannot take adverse employment action based solely on an applicant’s or current employee’s arrest record.
  • Employers cannot take adverse employment action based on an applicant’s or current employee’s pending criminal charges, a conviction record, or conduct related to an arrest, unless the employer has a “legitimate business reason” for taking such action and considers several other enumerated factors relating to the specific criminal background, job in question, and individual applicant.
  • A “legitimate business reason” is a good faith belief that the criminal conduct or pending charge will (not may) have a negative impact on the applicant’s or current employee’s ability to do the job sought or held, or will (not may) harm or cause injury to people, property, or business assets.
  • Before taking any adverse action based solely on an applicant’s or employee’s criminal conduct or pending charge, an employer must inform the applicant of the reason and give the applicant or current employee a chance to explain or correct the information. When hiring for an open position, the employer must also hold the position open for two days to give the applicant or current employee the opportunity to respond.
  • The ordinance expressly exempts positions in certain fields, including law enforcement and security. It also does not apply to positions that may have unsupervised access to children, disabled persons, and vulnerable adults.
  • The ordinance states that it creates no private right of action (but says nothing about possible tort claims, like negligent hiring, retention, or supervision).
  • The Seattle Office of Civil Rights has enforcement authority, may impose fines ($750-1000 per offense, plus attorney’s fees, and may initiate investigations of alleged violations with or without a complaint by a charging party.
  • The Seattle Office of Civil Rights will be tasked with issuing implementing rules

 A Criminal Record Does Not Have To Mean Jobless for Life

 By Star-Ledger Editorial Board
on December 16, 2013 
The Star-Ledger

At a job at Jon Bramnick’s law firm, he’ll ask up front if you’ve got a criminal past. As your potential employer, he says, he deserves that information right away.

Even that time you got caught smoking pot. Or standing on the wrong street corner, at the wrong time.

"You pay a price for being a criminal," says Bramnick, the Assembly’s top-ranking Republican.

But when one in four Americans has a criminal record — many for minor, nonviolent offenses, thanks to the decades-long War on Drugs — that price can be permanent unemployment. Often, that punishment doesn’t fit the crime.

Today, an Assembly committee considers the Opportunity to Compete Act, which requires employers of 15 or more to delay background checks or criminal history questions until late in the hiring process. The idea is to let applicants sell themselves before confessing past crimes. The law should be passed.

Bramnick says it’s unfair to tie employers’ hands. The burden should be on the applicant, he said, to have criminal records expunged through the courts.
Candidates should have the chance to show they’re qualified and explain their convictions.

He’s missing the point.

If passed, this law won’t force employers to hire convicted criminals, or let them be sued because they didn’t hire a felon. It won’t even stop them from asking the question. It only keeps companies from weeding out job-seekers with criminal records even before the interview.

Here’s why that matters: By age 23, one in three Americans will be arrested, and one in four is a convicted criminal. If you’re a black or Hispanic male, the stats are even worse. Meanwhile, 38,000 laws allow discrimination against people with criminal records, often for housing or jobs — a permanent underclass of the unemployable.

Candidates should have the chance to show they’re qualified and explain their convictions. Should a person be forever jobless over a decades-old mistake? The fair answer is no.

Nationwide, 10 states and dozens of cities — including Newark and Atlantic City — have such laws. So do the largest public- (the U.S. government) and private-sector (Wal-mart) employers.

Arrests stain your record, even if you’re never convicted. Digital record-keeping and online background checks mean even minor brushes with the law last forever. You can’t erase Google, and background checks can contain errors.

No one’s forcing Bramnick, nor any other business owner, to hire hardened criminals. Responsible employers should consider a prospective worker’s entire background — including criminal history. Delaying the question, however, is sensible and compassionate. A past mistake shouldn’t render a person eternally unemployed

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