The Fair Chance Workforce System project was initiated by Rise Together, the Insight Center for Community Economic Development and Urban Strategies Council through a shared commitment to ensuring all people in the Bay Area have the opportunity to provide for themselves and their family, regardless of race, gender or status. Identified as a priority by Rise Together’s Opportunity for Every Worker workgroup, the project focuses on increasing the availability and accessibility of proven workforce development and employment opportunities for individuals with a criminal record in order to improve their economic stability and well-being, with a focus on Alameda, Contra Costa, and Solano Counties. The resulting report and recommendations are designed to be a guide for philanthropy, government, and local communities seeking to increase employment for individuals with a criminal record.

When justice-impacted people are hired, they perform just as – if not better than – their workplace peers. Economic and employment research conf rm that employees with records have better retention rates, more loyalty, and lower turnover (ACLU/ Trone, 2017). Despite these potential gains for employers and businesses, systemic barriers to employment for the justice impacted persist. The harms of policies, practices, and narratives discriminating against individuals with records are even greater for people of color. The collective cost of these barriers is stunning: In addition to losing an estimated $87 billion per year in gross domestic production nationwide, more than half a million capable, qualified people are left out of the national workforce – and, as a result, are more susceptible to poverty, homelessness, and cycles of debt. In recent years, reforms such as California’s Ban the Box policy have emerged from a groundswell of advocacy to improve outcomes for justice-impacted workers. Nonetheless, much still needs to be done to ensure that all Bay Area residents have a true “Fair Chance,” regardless of race, gender, or record status.

Enacted in 2018, California’s statewide Ban the Box (BTB) policy delays any use of a background check or inquiry into conviction history until later in the hiring process – after a candidate has met job qualifications. Despite the passage of BTB, and even with the Bay Area’s currently low unemployment rate of 3 percent, persistent obstacles to stable employment remain for people with criminal records. At virtually every stage of the hiring process, justice impacted applicants can be denied a job based on their record alone – either through employer practice, licensing restrictions, or both. In California, over 4,800 laws impose collateral consequences on people with arrest or criminal records, most of which have no benefit or relationship to public safety. Many of these laws exist solely to make it harder for people to get good jobs, or any job at all.

Click here to read the Executive Summary.

Click here to read the full report (PDF).