Group to rally support of changing hiring policies to help ex-offenders get jobs

Group to rally support of changing hiring policies to help ex-offenders get jobs
Group to rally support of changing hiring policies to help ex-offenders get jobs
Posted at 11:52 PM, Mar 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-19 01:57:00-04

A group will host a rally on Saturday in support of changing hiring policies to help past offenders get hired.

The Fair Chance Hiring Rally will take place at Heritage Square in Waco at 10 a.m. and it will feature speakers that will talk about the benefits of fair chance hiring practices.

The event, hosted by Fair Chance Waco, aims to increase support for the effort and those with a criminal record affected by current hiring policies are encouraged to attend.

Fair Chance Waco wants an equal playing field for past offenders so they can turn their lives around.

Ken McKeever and Jerrod Clark of Mission Waco spearheaded the effort after having several offenders approach them about the difficulty of finding jobs and housing because of their past criminal history.

"This is for people who want to work. This is for people who want jobs but because of a mistake in the past, they ended with a criminal record. Therefore, they're being prevented from entering productive society and working hard for their living,” said Mission Waco Director of Legal Services Ken McKeever.

McKeever said the change is important to help past offenders because this is a moral issue. In addition, he said if past offenders get jobs, the community safer and the number of repeat offenders would decrease.  

The group would like for employers to not ask applicants about their criminal history on the initial application.

“On the front end of the process it gives the applicant the ability to have a fair opportunity to interview and not be discarded because they checked the box on the application that says ‘I have a criminal record,’” said Mission Waco Social Work Director Jerrod Clark.

Under the proposed fair chance hiring policies, an employer would conduct an individualized assessment of the qualified applicant who has a past criminal record. This would entail, looking at the nature of the offense, length of time since the offense occurred and connection to the prospective job.

"We're not asking for charity. We're not asking for an employer to have pity on an individual based on their criminal offense. We want to be reasonable. We want the position to fit well. We don’t want to put the employer at risk,” said Clark.

Waco resident C.J. Allen who said he was incarcerated for four and a half years finds the proposed changes beneficial.

According to Allen, who used to be a truck driver and has experience with videography is currently working odd jobs because he has not been able to find a permanent job.

He believes a few felony charges on his record have prevented him from getting hired.

"I wish people would understand that people do need a second chance to try to get their lives back together and they shouldn't be convicted on what they've done in the past,” said Allen.

He said employers should take a chance hiring someone with a past conviction.

“Don't look at the guidelines at what got the person into trouble. Ask the person what was the problem," said Allen.

Fair Chance Waco is garnering support for changing the hiring policies with an online petition that now has more than a 1,000 signatures.

“It’s a way to show that we have certain number of people that have support for fair hiring policy and to ask the city, the county, state and local employers will you give people a fair chance in the hiring process,” said McKeever.

The group plans to present take those signatures to the Capitol on Tuesday for lawmakers to see the support of this effort. They plan to present a formal proposal to local officials once the effort gets more traction.

The City of Waco changed its hiring policy in 2014 to lower the number of years without a conviction an applicant must have in order to apply.

Currently, applicants with felony convictions occurring more than five years ago and misdemeanors occurring more than three years ago are considered for employment in the City of Waco. However, an individualized assessment is conducted to determine job fitness for risk sensitivity job.

According to the City of Waco’s Human Resource Department, since the policy changed 42 people with a criminal conviction in their background, including felonies and misdemeanors have been hired.

In McLennan County, the hiring supervisor discretion makes the determination whether a past offender can be hired.

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