When I was first elected to the Richmond City Council in 2010, I wanted to create local policies that would have positive and dramatic impacts on the disenfranchised in our community. One of my first proposed policies was to create an ordinance that would ban the ‘criminal history’ question from City of Richmond job applications.
I knew that the proposed ban would be controversial and that success would be the result of committed collaborative efforts. I also knew that large numbers of former offenders would be returning to Richmond seeking work.
On the City side, I worked with the City Manager – who supervises the City Human Resources Department. On the community side, I worked with the phenomenal Safe Return Project - an initiative designed to support re-entry opportunities and leadership training for the formerly incarcerated.
I sponsored a ‘ban the box’ ordinance that went into effect in 2013. Four years later, this past week I was proud to stand with Rubicon, Safe Return Project and the growing coalition of organizations and individuals in support of Assembly Bill 1008, which would ‘ban the box’ statewide.
With the unemployment rate of formerly incarcerated individuals estimated around 70 percent, banning the box in Richmond allowed community members - mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and neighbors a chance at employment and financial security. AB1008 can do the same for thousands of Californians.
Numerous studies have consistently shown that one of the largest obstacles formerly incarcerated individuals face is the lack of job opportunities available to them. Without work, the formerly incarcerated are twice as likely to reoffend if they cannot secure employment upon their release. Lack of resources result in reoffending, perpetuating a vicious and endless cycle.
One of the original Safe Return members is now the Project Director. Tamisha Walker is a powerful demonstration of what a formerly incarcerated individual can do when the critical resources are made available.
In Richmond, we were able to help provide our formerly incarcerated community members with a second chance. All former offenders across California deserve the same.
That is why I strongly support AB 1008.
City Council member Jovanka Beckles advocates for Ban the Box policy in a 2013 news interview: