SF supes back shielding criminals’ pasts

CITY HALL — Previously-incarcerated individuals in San Francisco will no longer need to self-identify on job and housing applications after the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to support a “ban-the-box” ordinance Tuesday.

The Fair Chance ordinance, co-sponsored by supervisors Jane Kim and Maria Cohen, is one of the first in the nation to expand “ban-the-box” reform to private housing.

The “ban-the-box” movement seeks to eliminate questions regarding criminal history from employment, housing, public benefits and other application forms.

Speaking from the steps of City Hall Tuesday to a crowd of supporters, Kim said the stigma faced by 1 in 4 California adults means they are discouraged from applying for employment, something this ordinance is intended to fix:

“A stable job and housing are two of the most important factors in stopping recidivism.”

The ordinance, which must be approved by the Board of Supervisors once more before being sent to the mayor, bars businesses and housing providers from checking an applicant’s criminal history on an initial application.

The ordinance would remove the question related to criminal backgrounds along with the check box from applications.

A background check may still be performed, but it must wait until later in the application process.

The legislation is designed to help the formerly-imprisoned and those with a criminal past integrate back into a society which frequently denies them opportunities based on their past.

It’s not the only city program of its kind, though the ordinance’s backers have said they hope it will be more successful than others.

Another city program designed to help the formerly incarcerated is Clean Slate, which takes six months to a year to complete. Only one-third of the programs participants find jobs, according to Kim.

San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi also signaled his support:

“When you don’t have this kind of policy in place people give up and don’t apply for jobs.”

The ordinance’s authors were joined by a variety of stakeholders on the City Hall steps including Supervisor, All Of Us Or None, People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER) and the Coalition on Homelessness among others.

Supervisor David Campos also spoke to show his support for the ordinance:

“If a city can stand for redemption, that’s San Francisco.”