By Adolfo Guzman-Lopez
In a bid to help more ex-offenders get jobs, the California Community College Chancellor’s Office is urging the state’s 115 community colleges to wait until they’re ready to make a job offer before asking applicants about any criminal history.
College officials said the change is part of a statewide “ban the box” movement meant to reduce the number of ex-offenders discouraged from applying for jobs, as well as an acknowledgement of flaws in the criminal justice system.
“I think it’s well understood, generally, that the criminal justice system tends to incarcerate people of color at higher rates than non-minorities,” said Marc LeForestier, the general counsel of the chancellor’s office.
“If you carry that forward to the hiring process based on people’s criminal history then you can expect to have, I think, a discriminatory impact on communities of color,” he said.
The governing bodies of the state’s community colleges are expected to adopt the chancellor’s guidance. The recommendation is part of a systemwide effort by the state’s public higher education systems to help formerly incarcerated students earn a degree and thus hopefully avoid returning to prison. A recent audit faulted the state for not doing more to reduce a 50 percent recidivism rate in the last decade.
College students know how important it is to apply for a job they hope will be a foundation for their professional careers. That process is doubly important for ex-offenders, because many feel having to disclose their criminal history up front has led their applications to end up in the trash.