Syrita Bowen News, Press

Justice Action Network & Key Criminal Justice Reform Advocates Applaud House Passage of the ‘Fair Chance to Compete for Jobs Act of 2019’

Bipartisan Legislation Opens Doors to Jobs For the Formerly Incarcerated

(Washington, DC) – Today, the Fair Chance Act, sponsored by Rep. Doug Collins and Rep. Elijah Cummings, passed in the House of Representatives as an amendment to another legislative vehicle. This critical legislation would lead to increased job opportunities and a crucial lifeline for justice-involved individuals by postponing federal government and federal contractor requests for criminal history from job applicants until the applicant has received a conditional offer of employment. This landmark legislation comes just six months after passage of the historic First Step Act, building on the groundswell of criminal justice reforms on both the federal and state levels. 

The legislation does not prevent federal agencies or federal contractors from considering criminal history; it only delays consideration of criminal history so that all applicants are afforded a fair chance at consideration for employment. H.R. 1076 includes exceptions for positions related to law enforcement and national security duties, positions requiring access to classified information, and positions for which access to criminal history before the conditional stage is required by law.

Key criminal justice reform advocates released the following statements applauding the passage of H.R. 1076:

“The Fair Chance Act is a critical step towards getting government out of the way and opening up more opportunities to put people back to work,” said Holly Harris, Executive Director of the Justice Action Network (JAN). “This achievement is years in the making, and we are grateful to Reps. Cummings and Collins for their bipartisan leadership in shepherding this critical legislation through the House, and we look forward to working with Senators Booker, Johnson and Leader McConnell to get this across the finish line in the Senate.”

“Criminal Justice Reform reflects bedrock conservative values and measures similar to the Fair Chance Hiring Act have been passed and implemented successfully in states across the country, including by governors and legislatures with some of the most dependable conservative records in the country,” said Jason Pye, Vice President of Legislative Affairs at FreedomWorks. “Through these measures, states have grown their economies, created jobs and second chances – and shrunk the size of governments. If those aren’t core conservative values, I don’t know what is.”

“I am pleased that the Fair Chance Act has passed the House. It will improve employment opportunities for those with criminal records, help ensure employers evaluate job applicants on their skills and willingness to contribute, and contribute to the growth potential of the economy,” said Stan Veuger, Resident Scholar of Economic Policy Studies at American Enterprise Institute. “State, local, and private-sector versions of this policy have been tremendously successful, and it is good to see the federal government adopt norms and practices that are in line with those of much of the rest of society.”

“Families must endure incredible hardships during incarceration. If they survive, the least we can do is make it easier for them to stay together during re-entry,” said Kevin Ring, President of Families Against Mandatory Minimums. “The best way to do that is to help people with criminal records find a job. The Fair Chance Act will do that, and we are happy to support it.”

The inclusion of the Fair Chance Act in today’s vote demonstrates that Congress is willing to build on President Trump’s criminal justice reforms,” said David Safavian, General Counsel at the American Conservative Union. “The facts speak for themselves. When we remove barriers to entry for formerly incarcerated individuals seeking gainful employment, recidivism rates go down, communities become safer, and our federal government spends less money on people who are capable of providing for themselves.”

“President Trump has made criminal justice reform a cornerstone of his domestic agenda and the Fair Chance Act only moves this forward,” said Craig DeRoche, Senior Vice President of Advocacy and Public Policy at Prison Fellowship. “The weight of a criminal record can be a burden for job hunters and this is a solution that unlocks second chances, helping individuals regain dignity and make important contributions to society.”

“In June, President Trump announced an ambitious goal of reducing the unemployment rate of formerly incarcerated to single digits within the next five years,” said Arthur Rizer, Director of Criminal Justice and Civil Liberties at the R Street Institute. “The passage of Fair Chance Act is a significant step in the right direction to help this goal and support individuals who are seeking employment the chance to gain new skills, meet financial obligations and generate new tax revenue.”

Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia, and more than 150 cities and counties, have adopted fair chance hiring reforms,[iv] as have many major U.S. corporations, such as Home Depot, Target Corporation, Starbucks, Walmart, and Koch Industries.[v] Research by an American Enterprise Institute economist and others document that fair chance hiring policies have a positive effect on employment, increasing employment of residents in high crime neighborhoods by 4 percent, with particularly large gains among the public sector and lower wage jobs.[vii]

The legislation enjoys strong support from major advocacy organizations from the left to the right, including the Justice Action Network, American Conservative Union, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Faith & Freedom Coalition, National Employment Law Project, FAMM, Prison Fellowship, FreedomWorks, R Street Institute, Safer Foundation, and JustLeadershipUSA. These groups, along with former U.S. Attorney Brett Tolman, Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute Stan Veuger and Matthew Charles – the first man freed under the First Step Act, all signed onto a letter applauding the bipartisan leadership of Representatives Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and Doug Collins (R-GA), and all members of the House of Representatives who voted for passage of the Fair Chance Act amendment. The letter can be viewed – HERE.