11.02.15

Congresswoman Lee Applauds President’s Criminal Justice Reform Announcement

Washington, D.C. – Today, Congresswoman Barbara Lee released this statement applauding the President for enacting “fair chance” hiring policies for federal employees and contractors and for his continued leadership for criminal justice reform:

“I applaud President Obama for his bold and continued leadership to advance criminal justice reform.

Today’s announcement that the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) will adopt “fair chance” hiring policies is an important step toward ensuring that all people, including those with prior criminal records, can compete for federal employment opportunities.

The federal government should not be in the business of erecting barriers between those who have paid their debt to society and now deserve a second chance. By enacting these basic reforms, the federal government will continue to lead as a model employer while working to end the cycle of mass incarceration, unemployment and recidivism.

Furthermore, I echo the President’s call for Congressional action on bipartisan ‘ban the box’ legislation. Additionally, Congress must end the discriminatory bans that prevent formerly incarcerated individuals from receiving SNAP benefits, Pell Grants and public housing assistance.  It’s past time for Congress to get serious about advancing real criminal justice reform to end the cycles of recidivism and poverty that affect too many families.

In addition to advancing “fair change” hiring policies, I applaud the announcement of the National Clean Slate Clearinghouse. A decade ago, I was honored to co-host the first Clean Slate Summit at Laney College which supported more than 1,000 individuals that first day. Over the past ten years, these events have aided more than 10,000 people. We need more programs like this to help formerly incarcerated individuals rebuild their lives and support their families.”

Background:

In May, Congresswoman Lee led a letter signed by more than 70 Member of the House of Representatives urging the President to adopt federal “fair chance hiring” policies. The letter was co-led by Congressman Conyers, Congressman Scott, Congressman Davis, and Congresswoman Jackson Lee.

The effort was supported by various groups including Policy Link, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), National Employment Law Project (NELP), PICO Network’s LIVE FREE Campaign and All Of Us Or None, a national organizing initiative founded by formerly-incarcerated individuals to fight against discrimination and for the human rights of prisoners.

At the time of the letter’s writing, seventeen states, the District of Columbia and more than 100 cities and counties have already adopted “fair chance” hiring reforms.  In six states, the policy also expands to the private sector. Several private sector firms have also independently adopted “fair chance” hiring policies including: Walmart, Koch Industries, Home Depot, Bed Bath & Beyond and Target. ?

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Congresswoman Lee is a member of the Appropriations and Budget Committees, the Steering and Policy Committee, is a Senior Democratic Whip, former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and co-chair of the Progressive Caucus. She serves as chair of the Whip’s Task Force on Poverty and Opportunity.