THE FORTUNE NEWS A FORTUNE SOCIETY PUBLICATION • VOLUME XLIV NO.2 • JULY 2013
DISENFRANCHISEMENT: A Strike at the Heart of Democracy
The Word in Reform A Post-Election Justice Reform Agenda
American Gun Culture A David Rothenberg Editorial
Ban the Box Seeking Equal Access and Opportunity
PLUS... Center Stage Faces of Fortune and much more!
“THE DEGREE OF CIVILIZATION IN A SOCIETY CAN BE JUDGED BY ENTERING ITS PRISONS” —DOSTOEVSKI
Table of Contents Eye on Fortune..............................................................................................................................................................................................2 Letters to the Editor.......................................................................................................................................................................................3 Faces of Fortune............................................................................................................................................................................................4 The Word in Reform.: A Post-Election Justice Reform Agenda...................................................................................................................5 Felony Disenfranchisement: A Strike at the Heart of Democracy................................................................................................................6 American Gun Culture, a David Rothenberg Editorial.................................................................................................................................7 Center Stage..................................................................................................................................................................................................8 The Movement to Ban the Box is Really Heating Up..................................................................................................................................9 The Last Word / In the Next Issue...............................................................................................................................................................10
Eye on Fortune
The Fortune Society's mission is to support successful reentry from prison and promote alternatives to incarceration, thus strengthening the fabric of our communities.
ALL THE WORLD IS A STAGE
WE DO THIS BY:
Believing in the power of individuals to change;
Building lives through service programs shaped by the needs and experience of our clients; and
Changing lives through education and advocacy to promote the creation of a fair, humane and truly rehabilitative correctional system.
This past year theater has come to The Fortune Society in a major way. PUBLIC WORKS is a major new initiative of The Public Theater that seeks to engage the people of New York by making them creators and not just spectators. The Fortune Society was chosen as one of five community partner organizations throughout New York City to be part of this amazing project. The other partners include Dream Yard Project, the Brownsville Recreation Center, Children’s Aid Society, and Domestic Workers United. PUBLIC WORKS enables members of these diverse communities to participate in theater workshops, to attend classes, to attend productions, and to become involved in the daily life of The Public Theater. Under the leadership of Director Lear deBessonet, PUBLIC WORKS will deliberately blur the line between professional artists and community members: it will create theater that is not only for the people, but by and of the people. The project will culminate in a production of The Tempest at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park in September.
GARDEN IN THE SKY
CONTACT 212.691.7554 firstname.lastname@example.org The Fortune Society 29-76 Northern Boulevard Long Island City, NY 11101
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T o l ea r n m o r e , p l ea s e v i s i t u s a t www.fortunesociety.org , c o n t ac t u s b y p h o n e o r e m a il , or simply stop by our Long I s l a n d C i t y l o ca t i o n !
Walk-in Hours: M o n – F r i , 8 : 00 A M – 4 : 00 P M
In New York City you can find fresh vegetables growing everywhere, including at The Fortune Society. This spring marks the second annual growing season for the Sky Garden located on the roof at Castle Gardens, Fortune’s affordable and supportive housing facility located in Harlem. The garden consists of 17 window boxes and several planters around the roof each tended by a resident of Castle Gardens. The goal for this year is to provide enough vegetables to sell at our youth-run Farm Stand as well as providing food for themselves. Peppers, tomatoes, spinach, and
Eye on Fortune (cont.) cilantro are among the tasty foods that will be coming up soon. The project is made possible by the hard work of the residents who tend the plants every week, Kristin Pederson, Food Programs Coordinator for Fortune, Xizmenna Moore, Property Manager, dedicated volunteer Curt Boll and the support of Christ Church of Oyster Bay.
ATI COALITION NY CITY HALL RALLY This year marked the third consecutive ATI Coalition rally on the steps of NY City Hall to raise awareness and support for Alternatives to Incarceration programs. More than 30 Fortune clients, volunteers and staff joined with other members of the ATI Coalition to advocate for needed funding from the City Council. Glenn E. Martin, VP of Public Affairs, helped organize a stellar press conference in which he spoke compellingly about how ATI is effective from both a societal and costbased perspective. Several young people, including a successful Fortune ATI client, joined Glenn at the podium to describe how ATI programs helped them earn a GED, become employed and keep their families together. Glenn also introduced five City Council members who each provided testimony about the importance of ATI in their communities and called upon the Council to fund these efforts. The last speaker, a Queens’s prosecutor, expressed strong support for ATI, noting that it
On May 8th, 2013, the ATI/Reentry Coalition, including many members of the Fortune community, converged on the steps of New York’s City Hall to speak about the impact and value of the critical alternatives to incarceration and reentry programs.
provided critical services and cost savings for the criminal justice system. As the sun broke through the clouds, Glenn led advocates in chanting “ATI, ATI.” Many of the Fortune clients had never participated in a political action before. One man remarked, “I’m glad I came. It was important to make my voice heard.”
FORTUNE’S FABULOUS SPRING SOIREE Hundreds of young philanthropists converged on the Bowery Hotel in NYC for a fabulous fundraiser that raised awareness for The Fortune Society. The Third Annual “Spring Soiree,” hosted by The Fortune Society’s Junior Committee and Co-
Chaired by Luke Weil, Louise Tabbiner, and Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter John Forte, will fund critically needed support services used by Fortune’s clients to successfully re-enter their communities and rebuild their lives after serving time in prison and jail. "We are thrilled that our third soiree was even more successful than the first two" said Luke Weil, co-chair of the event. "I think this shows the enduring commitment of our generation of philanthropists to this worthy and important mission.” Receiving The Fortune’s Society’s Spotlight Award was renowned documentary filmmaker Eugene Jarecki (Why We Fight, Trials of Henry Kissinger). Eugene was honored for his most recent film, The House I Live In, which examines the human rights implications of America’s war on drugs through the lens of those who experience it first hand. The film was awarded the Grand Jury Documentary Prize at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.
Fortune VP of Development and Public Affairs, Glenn E. Martin, Fortune President and CEO, JoAnne Page and filmmaker and honoree Eugene Jarecki pose for a photo at Fortune’s 2013 Spring Soiree.
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Letters to the Editor Dear Editor, To answer your question in the “January, 2013” Fortune News publication…I believe President Obama should focus on the mental health crisis that has taken the country by storm as of lately. The mental health of those free or imprisoned can be linked to an array of social, economic and political issues. People are being stretched to their limits mentally and it has long been acknowledged by those of us who live in a constant stream of despair (sic). Substance abuse, violence (mass shootings, domestic) homelessness and joblessness all are outward symptoms of a society that has gone ignored (sic) and deprived of the humane assistance mental health professionals/hospitals could provide. I don’t believe in government or ethnic intervention (sic), the world needs love, the love of those who have placed the well being of their fellow man (woman) above any political agenda or corporate profit. I believe the answer lies within (we the people). People don’t want to hear politicians sell dreams, tell lies, we’re fed up and are no longer disillusioned (sic) about the truth. The government does not care about the people and soon it is going to be made known that we don’t want or need them. This isn’t about race or even class; this is about life, liberty and humanity.
As far as re-entry goes, I say funnel billions of dollars that the government is sending to foreign countries and give grants to organizations like “Fortune Society”. That’s no suck up remark either. I only hope I can come to Long Island City once I’m released and get the help I need. There’s a time warp here in the south. Not much has changed since “Jim Crow” days and they don’t believe in helping those of us who have fallen from the graces of society (sic). Though I serve my time, I’m still punished through policies that make it nearly impossible to find employment, find stable housing and just feel like I have a right to be in general society. I’m considered a threat to the quote unquote law-abiding citizens. I’m tethered to a parole (sic) officer who doesn’t want to “work with me”, but has a hostile demeanor and no patience. All day I feel like I’m being stalked by the police/narc cause (sic) they’re aware I’m back. I just want a chance to out live my past mistakes…I pray Fortune Society will welcome me with open arms. The question I pose is this…after serving prison time for the crime I’ve been convicted of…where do I go if society considers me a threat, if I’m no longer desirable or suitable for gainful employment, if I have no place I belong then I either go back to prison or kill myself.
This is the dilemma (sic) “I” faced and will face again soon. HELP ME! I WANT TO LIVE. Sincerely, Demetrius Crumby (#0792667)
Dear Editor, I would like to submit the following submissions to President Obama listed below: I believe President Obama should address the unique needs of children of incarcerated parents. Children of incarcerated parents, are highly at-risk-youth, most likely to become incarcerated themselves, in contrast, to their peers. President Barack Obama has already spoken on this issue. In addition, President Obama, must appoint a permanent administrator for the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJOP), and reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act through U.S. Congress, overall, removing youth from the Adult Criminal Justice System. Struggling! Darrell Gunn; Elmira, NY
In late 2012, The Fortune Society hosted a special event in celebration of our Farm Fresh Food & Nutrition Program. Over 50 people attended to learn more about the program from Stanley Richards, Senior Vice President of Programs, watch a cooking demonstration, and taste a sample of delicious, healthy food prepared by staff and program participants. Fortune recognized the Aetna Foundation and the NYS Dept. of Health, which provided the funding needed to launch the program.
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Faces of Fortune
Senior Director of Health and Transitional Services, Fortune Society
Intern and Former Fortune Society Client
Fortune Society Volunteer
My journey with The Fortune Society began early in 2003 while awaiting release from a federal prison in Texas. I came across one of Fortune’s flyers and immediately wrote to apply for participation in Fortune’s programs.
My biggest issue before I came to Fortune Society was loss. I lost my freedom, I lost my respect and I even lost my son’s father, which led me to lose myself. I came to Fortune because a friend of mine told me that the people there can help with job placement and also to obtain my G.E.D. I told myself, how can I possibly earn my G.E.D. if I dropped out of my freshman year? You can say I lost my faith as well.
After participating in Fortune’s Employment Workshop, I saw the world of possibilities Fortune offered and the potential for success for formerly incarcerated people. In December, 2003, I applied for a position as an entry level counselor in Fortune’s intake unit. Today I am proud to serve our clients as Senior Director of Health and Transitional Services. Fortune’s relationship with the staff at Rikers Island allows us to engage our clients while they are still in jail and help them identify and meet their goals. The Rikers Island Discharge Enhancement (RIDE) Program exceeded our expectations in that Fortune was able to hire three former participants. We look forward to similar success with the new Individualized Correction Achievement Network (I-CAN) Program. Fortune represents a second chance to fulfill important life goals. I have a clarity that would be hard to find, much less maintain, in a less supportive environment. Fortune’s leadership nurtures its clientele to turn their lives around. I’m grateful Fortune is still a part of my process and I am now a part of helping others.
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Everyone at Fortune told me what I wanted to hear but for me it wasn’t enough. I took classes to see where my grade level landed. I was strong with my literacy but my math was weak. I studied to build my grades. I took a chance and went to Flushing H.S. to take the G.E.D. I failed but not by that much, so I studied more and went to take my G.E.D. again, and this time I passed. It was the best feeling in the world next to giving birth to my son. All the loss I dealt with before coming to Fortune is now being replaced with successful gains. I have recently been accepted to two colleges, B.M.C.C. and LaGuardia Community College. I also landed a 6 month paid internship at the Fortune Society. Now I am a peer intern for education. I love my job because I get to give others the opportunity to gain the confidence they need to obtain their G.E.D.
While taking a course at Hunter College entitled Law, Race, and Society, I was introduced to the topic of voter disenfranchisement and the mistreatment of those involved in the criminal justice system. I became interested in the issue and determined to participate in helping an organization that advocated for the rights of formerly incarcerated men and women. That’s when I found The Fortune Society. I volunteer for the David Rothenberg Department of Public Policy (DRCPP), where I work on a variety of tasks – including policy research, attending university volunteer fairs to talk with fellow students about Fortune Society’s work, replying to correspondence received from incarcerated individuals, and creating a resource guide for those reentering into their community following incarceration. I know that no matter how big or small my assignment for the day may be that I am helping this great organization. I also love my fellow volunteers! Since most of us attend school in New York City there is a common bond and we are all there to help support Fortune and we help each other on nearly all projects and tasks. I feel connected to the rest of the agency because I know that from the Education Department to the Public Policy Department we are all working towards the same goals. We are all here to help those who are sometimes forgotten, ignored, or misjudged.
News from the David Rothenberg Center of Public Policy (DPCPP) INTRODUCTION In 2007, The Fortune Society launched the David Rothenberg Center for Public Policy (DRCPP). While Fortune has always engaged in advocacy and community education, DRCPP resourced and ramped up Fortune's policy development, advocacy, technical assistance, training, and community education efforts. DRCPP leverages Fortune's internal expertise–including the life experience of our formerly incarcerated staff and clients and our first-hand experience as a direct reentry service provider–to advocate for a fairer criminal justice system; promote effective program models and needed supports for people with criminal justice histories; and change the counterproductive laws and policies that create unfair barriers to the successful reentry of people with criminal justice histories into our communities. David Rothenberg, Fortune Society Founder
The Word in Reform A Post-Election Justice Reform Agenda By Glenn E. Martin, DRCPP Director and VP of Development and Public Affairs President Barack Obama’s re-election comes with a second-term mandate to further address the increased criminalization of behavior, our nation’s over reliance on mass incarceration, and the lifetime punishment that stems from involvement in the criminal justice system. In our current criminal justice system, 2.3 million people are in prison or jail across the country and nearly 7 million are under state and federal supervision. Most of these individuals have lost their right to vote because of their criminal record, but they all had a tremendous stake in the outcome of the 2012 Presidential election. For too long, prisons and jails have served as the repository for the people who are the products of our failed education, housing, healthcare and economic development policies. This is not a partisan issue. In fact, it was President George W. Bush who inspired the nation to pay closer attention to mass incarceration and reentry in his 2004 State of the Union address, where he called for broad bipartisan support, including the backing of law enforcement, state and local government, and religious and social service organizations to address the problem. In addition to saving lives, 5 The Fortune News
supporting impacted families and strengthening affected communities, he knew that there was considerable potential in cost savings and improved public safety. During President Obama's first term, we saw evidence of additional progress, including the signing of the Fair Sentencing Act, which reduced the 100-to-1 disparity between sentences for powder and crack cocaine. The Administration has also shown support for the expansion of diversion programs which mandate people charged with drug related crimes into treatment instead of prison. The Obama Administration continues to support the Second Chance Act which provides resources across the country for innovative, evidence-based reentry efforts to reduce crime. The Department of Justice launched a Federal Interagency Reentry Council and urged state attorney generals to review and consider eliminating the legal collateral consequences that create counterproductive barriers to successful reentry. All of these efforts are a step in the right direction. However if we're truly going to move forward as a nation, then we must acknowledge that there is much more work to be done to reform the criminal justice system. First, when you identify unfairness in the system, you must work to eradicate it, not reduce it. During his second term, the Obama Administration must work with Congress to finish the job of eliminating mandatory minimums and the crack/cocaine sentencing disparity. Secondly, law enforcement's illegitimate utilization of Stop and Frisk and other bias
policing practices must cease immediately and be replaced with sensible, evidencebased community policing strategies, such as the ones recommended by the Department of Justice Community Oriented Policing Services [COPS] program. Thirdly, prison-based programming has been decimated over the past two decades, including the massive reduction in vocational training and the virtual elimination of college programs. Fourth, President Obama must prioritize the reinstatement of Pell Grant eligibility for incarcerated students, as well as repeal the Drug Felony Ban on Financial Aid. Finally, we should right-size the system by expanding the utilization of a holistic array of community based diversion programs for appropriate defendants. Without these reforms we will continue to diminish police legitimacy and reduce public safety in the communities that need the most support. For too long, criminal justice policymaking has been reactionary, driven by fear and emotion and increasingly responsive to special interests that stand to gain from the system's expansion. If we're going too successfully stem the tide of people who are relegated to being part of the newly manufactured underclass in America, these tactics must end. If our President is truly dedicated to moving this country forward, he has an obligation to show renewed leadership in this area by working across party lines to end our overreliance on incarceration as a response to crime. [Originally published in thecrimereport.org, November 12, 2012] www.fortunesociety.org
Felony Disenfranchisement: A Strike at the Heart of Democracy By Jeremy Haile, Federal Advocacy Counsel, The Sentencing Project Two centuries ago, when America was established, voting was a right primarily exercised by rich white men. Other Americans -- women, people with black or brown skin, those without land -- had little say in choosing their representatives. Our nation was a democracy only in name. Today, most of those voting barriers have been removed. We’ve amended the Constitution to extend voting rights to people of color and to women. And we’ve done away with the absurd tests – such as guessing the number of bubbles in a bar of soap – that were used to deny voting rights to black people even after the Constitution had guaranteed them. We have come a very long way. But despite this progress, our nation continues to deny one group of Americans their fundamental rights of citizenship. Across America, from California to Mississippi to New York, millions of people convicted of a felony have been stripped of their right to vote. It is well known that the United States is the world’s incarceration nation, with about 2.2 million people behind bars. We have a small fraction of the world’s people but almost a quarter of its prisoners. In the past few decades, the number of people locked up has increased 600%. And just as incarceration has skyrocketed, there has been a dramatic escalation in the number of people who cannot vote because they have a felony conviction. In the 1970s, a little over one million people were disenfranchised. By 2010, nearly six million Americans were forced to sit out state and federal elections. In twelve states, a felony conviction can result in a lifetime ban. So for example, an 18-year-old high school student in Virginia who is caught and arrested for selling marijuana and then successfully completes a court-ordered treatment program and is never arrested again can permanently lose his or her voting rights. Felony disenfranchisement has a particularly harsh impact on African Americans. Given racial disparities in the criminal justice system it is hardly
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surprising, but shocking nonetheless, that one of every 13 blacks is disenfranchised – nearly 7.7 percent of voting age blacks, compared to less than two percent of all Americans. In Virginia, Kentucky, and Florida, one in five African Americans President and CEO JoAnne Page presents at Fortune’s 2012 Summer Associate event, cannot vote where lawyers and other advocates learned about our work and assisted clients and staff because of a with voter registration. felony conviction. Most people who are years ago, new governors in Florida and disenfranchised are not locked up, but are Iowa reversed the policies of their instead living in the community under immediate predecessors who had eased the probation or parole supervision, or having rights restoration process after completion completed their sentence. These individuals of a sentence. are expected to get a job, pay taxes, and As Supreme Court Justice Thurgood support their families. But when it comes Marshall wrote in a dissenting opinion, to voting they are treated as second-class disenfranchising voters because they are citizens. It is a funny way to promote a seen as hostile to the rest of society “strikes law-abiding reentry to society. at the very heart of the democratic process.” Much of the world looks at America’s It is also counterproductive. Denying felony disenfranchisement – along with our voting rights to people with prior felony incarceration rates – with astonishment. convictions weakens social networks and Though the idea of felony makes it harder for formerly incarcerated disenfranchisement goes back to Aristotle individuals to become law-abiding and and to the “civil death” tradition of productive members of free society. medieval Europe, most other countries have long since abandoned it. In fact, almost For more information go to half of the countries in Europe allow people www.sentencingproject.org for to vote in prison. Courts in Canada, Israel, State-level Estimates of Felon and South Africa have ruled that restricting Disenfranchisement in the United States, voting rights based on convictions is 2010 and Expanding the Vote: State unconstitutional. Felony Disenfranchisement Reform, In recent years, we have seen some 1997-2010. promising advances in the United States. Since 1997, almost two dozen states have Jeremy Haile coordinates federal advocacy reformed their disenfranchisement laws to efforts for The Sentencing Project, which remove unfair restrictions. In addition, works to promote a fairer and more advocates have worked in neighborhoods effective criminal justice system. He and communities to educate people with previously served for almost four years as a felony convictions and help register them to legislative aide on Capitol Hill. A lawyer vote. and longtime activist, Haile lives with his But there have also been setbacks. Two wife Jen in Washington, DC.
On the Record - Notes from out Founder, David Rothenberg American Gun Culture My abhorrence of guns and the gun culture is deep and long standing. The massacres in Newton CT. and Aurora, CO. gave the antigun campaign a renewed focus and energy. The slaughter of little children is beyond our comprehension. However, each day individuals are killed in numbers that are staggering. When I was in the army I was trained to kill with a rifle. I was coached in heavy weapons, learning how to use a machine gun and fire heavy bazookas, weapons that could destroy a tank or obliterate a village. I was repelled by what was inflicted on me and fought to resist the drilling, how noncommissioned officer’s wanted to define me as a man and a patriot. Our society also condones hunting. Gun owners defend their passion as hunters, slaying animals for sport, a pastime that eludes me. I am realistic enough, and realize that 2nd Amendment adherents will not permit me and other anti-gun advocates, to remove guns from our culture. The best we can hope for are some compromises; regulation of gun sales, minimizing inter-state sales, monitoring gun shows and removing heavy artillery from civilian hands. Gun manufacturers and the NRA are prepared to spend millions on a campaign to protect their investments: Profits over people…the American way. All that being said, as one who agrees with Mayor Bloomberg’s efforts to save lives by legislating against guns, I see a glint of history about to repeat itself. Nelson Rockefeller created a model anti-drug law in 1973, quickly emulated around the nation. It did not stop drug use, what it did do was incarcerate a generation of black and Hispanic men and women while recreational drugs was part of the white social fabric from Wall Street to East Hampton, and Aspen to Beverly Hills. I loathe drugs, but not from some moral posture. I saw drugs destroy people who mattered to me. Not just overdoses and prison, but men and women who had cleaned up and shed their past, only to be felled from kidney, liver or other life ending ailments. One close colleague who reclaimed his life and motivated hundreds
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of others, died pre-maturely, drugs long out of his system had eroded various parts of his body.
imprisonment of young black and Hispanic men and women.
In the play The Castle, Casimiro Torres, In the past few months I have met with reflecting on his childhood in which he was young black and Hispanic men facing placed into a brutal state run institution at 6 imprisonment for gun possession. I assure years of age, tells us “at the age of 10, I was you that I am not defending this, and they introduced to weed and alcohol…and from knew in no uncertain terms of my then on, that’s how I managed my pain.” disapproval and disappointment. One young The answers are complex – and I am not man challenged me, “you don’t have to sure that a well motivated billionaire Mayor walk through my neighborhood at night can grasp the depths of despair that drives a when you go home”. He was carrying a 10 year old to weed and alcohol. Get rid of gun for protection. But his gun was the guns, but not with a stop and frisk, unregistered, thus the crime. Also, he is Russian roulette approach that shatters hope brown skinned and more likely to be without dealing with the broad problem. stopped and frisked than a suburban gun holder. We might be at the start of a new era, imprisoning black and Hispanic Fortune’s Founder David Rothenberg is the producer of the long-running play youths for gun “The Castle.” On May 10th, 2013, a documentary film about the play entitled possession, as we did “Released” was premiered. The play’s cast included (clockwise from upper left) Kenneth Harrigan, Vilma Ortiz Donovan, Casimiro Torres, and Angel Ramos. for drugs a generation ago, without making an impact on the designated targets – drugs or guns. There is a need for a massive campaign in neighborhoods that will be most affected – alerting people of the rigidity of the new laws, no judicial discretion, no distinction between a kid coming home from work and one with intent to rob. When our legislative zeal results in racial selectivity, it is not only hypocritical and life destroying, it is against everything a democracy is supposed to be and it does not confront the problem. I would like to live in a drug free, gun free culture but not at the expense of broadside racism that results in
Where I’m From A Poem by Jessie Torres
I’m from a brood of eight children, A strong mother with strong genes. From a family with a lot of love. If you mess with one you mess with all From where I RISE and then I FALL, into the arms of my family. Don’t I love them ALL. From where cops dress undercover not wanting to be seen. From seeing my brother get shot. Watching him bleed, And not being able to help cause they shot ME.
Art Therapy participant Dennis Pinto displays his latest creations. Dennis completed a personal coat of arms or shield which represented his definition of "Protection". Project uses paint, mixed media, symbols and metaphors to create an image that express who/what they need to protect in their life.
I Am a Spiritual Being A Poem by Christopher Matos
I am a spiritual being I am a soul With blood that pumps A mind that flows My body is armor to my mind and my heart I am as eager to finish As I am to start I have a thirst for change And it’s insatiable Knowledge is power So What Is Left To Do?
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I’m from late night shootings and early birds tweeting. Where you go to school all week and drink all weekend. Where cops stop and frisk and judge you on how you dress. From where we shop online and dress to impress. I’m from being spoiled not knowing how it feels to get hit. From seeing crack heads get star struck off that hit. From where you can’t be nice cause they take your kindness for weakness. Where we wake up early just to clean on weekends. Where your friends turn to enemies, can’t be trusted, When you go to jail you don’t hear nothing. Where they catch cases and don’t say nothing And when you get money everybody want something. I’m from if I get hurt then my whole family’s hurt. Where they keep secrets and take them with them to the dirt. From a family that loves me regardless if I go to school or work. I am from the blood that flows through my family’s body. Where my brothers lay on the couch all day, but to me they still somebody.
SEND US YOUR CREATIVE WORKS TODAY! Learn how on page 10.
The Movement to Ban the Box is Really Heating Up By Madeline Neighly, Staff Attorney, National Employment Law Project When you fill out an application for a job there is frequently a question that asks: “Have you ever been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor.” Often, checking “yes” means that your application ends up getting pushed aside, even though you may be the best person for the job. To make sure that all qualified job seekers have a chance, cities and states around the country are “banning the box”: they are taking that question off of job applications and delaying any background check until later in the hiring process. This gives job seekers the chance to put their best foot forward and compete fairly for a job. Once an employer has a chance to talk to you and find out about your qualifications, that person is more likely to give you a fair chance and not disqualify you for a conviction that isn’t related to the job. There are now 51 cities and counties that have banned the box (everywhere from Boston to Kansas City) and nine states (Colorado, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and New Mexico). Most of these localities have banned the box only for public employers – the city or state
application will no longer ask about criminal records. An exciting new push in this growing movement, however, is to ban the box for private employers too. In May 2013, Minnesota expanded the state ban the box law to require all employers to remove the question from the initial job application. So far only a handful of cities and three states have such expansive laws. Additional cities require both the city and vendors or companies that do business with the city to ban the box, but we are hopeful that advocates across the country will continue to push for ban the box laws that apply to all employers. Banning the box doesn’t mean that an employer can’t ask about your criminal history or use that information to make a hiring decision. What it does mean is that all job seekers can fill out an application and have the employer look at their skills instead of just their criminal record. In most places, once a job seeker has been selected as a finalist for a position (or sometimes after there is a conditional job offer),then the employer can ask about the criminal record or even run a background check. If you’ve made it this far in the hiring process there is a good chance that the employer wants to hire you and will give you an opportunity to explain your record. The goal of ban the box is to delay the point when the employer asks about criminal records so that the employer is able and willing to consider each person individually. Ban the box helps change the hearts and minds of people because it allows people with
In October 2012, the Young Men's Initiative partnered with the Human Services Council of New York and the Fortune Society to host special forums educating human service providers about Executive Order 151: Ban the Box. From left: Steve Stein Cushman (Law Department), Glenn Martin (Fortune Society), Commissioner Vincent Schiraldi (Department of Probation), Wendy Trull (Mayor's Office), and Lorenzo Harrison (US Labor Department)
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criminal records to be considered based on their qualifications rather than denied outright because of their record. When an employer meets qualified workers that he or she wants to hire, and then realizes that the worker has a record, it disrupts stereotypes and opens the employer’s eyes to the fact that highly qualified workers can have criminal records. Just over a year ago, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released an updated guidance on the use of arrest and conviction records in hiring decisions. Because criminal records exclusions have a disparate impact on African American and Latino workers, employers need to make sure that they exclude people from jobs based on criminal records only when that record is job related. This usually means that an employer needs to look at each person’s record individually to consider (1) the type of conviction, (2) the length of time since the conviction, and (3) the type of job. Ban the box sets up employers to do this review accurately and fairly. Importantly, ban the box is only one part of the puzzle to ensure access to employment for people with criminal records. Other efforts such as job training, educational opportunities, and skills advancement are necessary, but must be in combination with reducing barriers to employment. Ban the box is one important step in the right direction. There are advocates all over the country working on this issue and we can always use more people getting involved. Urge your friends and family members to support Ban the Box initiatives in their community.
To find out more, check out NELP’s ban the box guide (http://nelp.3cdn.net/ 495bf1d813cadb030d_qxm6b9zbt.pdf). Madeline Neighly is a Staff Attorney with the National Employment Law Project’s Second Chance Labor Project, working to eliminate unfair barriers to employment of people with criminal records.
The Last Word IN THE NEXT ISSUE:
EDUCATION BOTH INSIDE AND OUT
QUESTIONS FOR OUR READERS: Do you think that education has received enough attention as a strategy for successful reentry? Why or why not? Send your answers to the address listed below for a chance to be featured in our next issue!
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As part of Fortune's ongoing partnership with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, two groups of students recently went on field trips to the museum. Our Art Therapy group built on their previous trips, going again on June 18th. This time they focused on historical pieces that use techniques or themes similar to those they are working on in art therapy. In this case, they learned about mosaics built from recycled material by an East African artist. And on June 19th a class from our Education department went to see visual representations of myths and ancient stories to build off of what they had been reading and writing about in class.
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