A Fair Chance at a Fresh Start

Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas speaks at the launch of on the steps of the Hall of Administration. Photo by Bryan Chan / Board of Supervisors

Los Angeles County launched the Fair Chance Campaign, urging businesses to give all competent job applicants a fair chance at employment, including those seeking a fresh start after being in the justice system.

“Hiring justice-involved individuals is not only good for business, but provides an opportunity to transform lives,” Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas said. “Stable employment can help individuals reenter society with the tools they need to lead healthy and productive lives, leading to greater safety in our communities.”

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas and Hilda L. Solis coauthored motions to establish fair chance hiring policies for those seeking LA County government jobs, and to create a fair chance ordinance for businesses that contract with LA County or do business with unincorporated areas.

“Today, we challenge employers to think outside the box when making their hiring decisions,” Supervisor Solis said. “Studies clearly show that hiring rehabilitated people with past records is a smart business move: they work harder, stay longer, and promote faster than other employees. LA County also offers incentives and support to businesses that hire individuals who have been justice-involved. Everyone deserves a fair chance to get back on their feet – and when they do, everyone benefits.”

The Fair Chance Campaign does not seek to give anyone preferential treatment, nor does it call for hiring an unqualified person with an arrest or conviction record. Instead, it is intended to eliminate discriminatory obstacles for competent candidates, with the goal of boosting the economy, promoting public safety, and reducing dependence on public benefits.

Supervisor Ridley-Thomas and Vincent Bragg, who founded the advertising agency ConCreates. Photo by Bryan Chan / Board of Supervisors

Research shows approximately one in three working-age Americans has a felony criminal record and up to 65 percent of individuals released from incarceration are unemployed a year after release. Yet, according to the Society of Human Resource Managers, the largest human resource professional organization in the world, 82 percent of managers believe the quality of work by formerly incarcerated individual is just as high or even higher than that of the rest of their workforce.

“There is a great need for work opportunities among members of the reentry community,” said Vincent Bragg, who founded the advertising agency ConCreates after leaving prison and is one of many reentry success stories. “Too many of us have been undervalued and overlooked because of complex circumstances. It is vital to have programs like this that can help move the needle toward meaningful change.”

“We have been hiring reentry individuals for several years and can attest to the dedication, reliability and incredible work ethic of our justice-involved employees,” AMS Fulfillment chief workforce development officer Ken Wiseman said. “It is great to see the County offering incentives to businesses that hire from this pool of qualified, talented people.”

As part of the Fair Chance Campaign, business executives will be asked to sign the Fair Chance Hiring Pledge, which is a commitment to provide justice-involved individuals a fair chance to participate and to thrive in our economy by promoting fair chance hiring practices.

Companies that sign the pledge will receive guidance from County Business Services Representatives who will work with them to recruit and keep qualified candidates. The County connects businesses to tax credits, training reimbursement, and other resources when they hire qualified workers who were once incarcerated.

The Fair Chance Hiring Campaign also seeks to raise awareness of California’s Fair Chance Act, which went into effect in January 2018. The law generally prohibits businesses with more than five employees from asking about a job candidate’s criminal record before tendering a conditional job offer.