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  • Insight Center for Community Economic Development

Opportunity for Every Worker: Toward a Fair Chance Workforce in the Bay Area

Despite our constitutional protections against “cruel and unusual punishment,” nearly 1 in 3 Californians with a criminal record face unjust barriers to employment and economic security long after they’ve served their time. As a result of systemic challenges like harsh licensing requirements, employer bias, and pervasive court fines and fees, more than half a million capable, qualified people are left out of the national workforce – and, as a result, are more susceptible to long-term unemployment, poverty, and cycles of debt. Insight's new report, released in collaboration with Rise Together and Urban Strategies Council, calls for action, collaboration, and advocacy to ensure that millions of justice-impacted Bay Area residents get a true opportunity to live, participate in the workforce, and care for themselves and their families. When justice-impacted people are hired, they perform just as well as – if not better than – their workplace peers. According to the report, Opportunity for Every Worker: Toward a Fair Chance Workforce in the Bay Area, employees with records have better retention rates and lower turnover; and yet, for too many, crushing obstacles to employment persist. The harms of policies, practices, and narratives discriminating against individuals with records are even greater for people of color: Justice-impacted Black applicants are 40 percent less likely to get a job interview compared to White applicants with similar histories. When examining the average earnings of individuals with felony records in the Bay Area, for every one dollar earned by White people, Black people earn 51 cents and Latinx earn 74 cents. In recent years, reforms such as California’s Ban the Box policy have emerged from a groundswell of advocacy to improve outcomes for justice-impacted workers. Still, much more needs to be done to ensure that Bay Area residents have a true “Fair Chance,” regardless of their race, gender, or record status. Opportunity For Every Worker examines what is working both locally and nationally to address employment barriers for individuals with criminal records, where these individuals are currently situated in the Bay Area workforce, and what workforce development, employer, and policy stakeholders recommend to achieve fair hiring and workplace practices for all. Click here to download and read the full report (PDF).


Project Overview

The Fair Chance Workforce System project was initiated by Rise Together, the Insight Center for Community Economic Development, and Urban Strategies Council through a shared commitment to ensuring all people in the Bay Area have the opportunity to provide for themselves and their family, regardless of race, gender or status. Identified as a priority by Rise Together’s Opportunity for Every Worker workgroup, the project focuses on increasing the availability and accessibility of proven workforce development and employment opportunities for individuals with a criminal record in order to improve their economic stability and well-being, with a focus on Alameda, Contra Costa, and Solano Counties. The resulting report and recommendations are designed to be a guide for philanthropy, government, and local communities seeking to increase employment for individuals with a criminal record.

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