Expunging misdemeanors from criminal records can help applicants get jobs, according to David Stern, executive director of a Washington-based nonprofit called Equal Justice Works (EJW).
EJW recently won $1.4 million from AmeriCorps to launch an Employment Opportunity Legal Corps.
Karen Sloan of the National Law Journal (NLJ) reported that organizers of EJW plan to send 40 lawyers and 360 law students to legal aid organizations throughout the country. Beginning in August 2014, the teams will help poor people eliminate some of the legal problems that hurt their chances of securing employment.
“At least half of African-American men are
arrested by the time they are 23 years old”
According to the NLJ report, EFW Director Stern said, “Sixty-five million Americans have criminal records,” and “misdemeanors can be a blemish when employers do a criminal record check. These applicants don’t get called back for interviews.”
Two-thirds of all criminal records involve misdemeanors and more than 90 percent of employers use criminal records to screen employees, Sloan reported.
Stern said research has shown that job applicants who report a criminal record are 50 percent less likely to get a call back than someone who does not report such a record. The numbers are far worse for blacks with criminal records, who are 250 percent less likely to get a call back.
“At least half of African-American men are arrested by the time they are 23 years old,” Stern said, adding. “No matter how much vocational training people have, criminal backgrounds prevent them from getting a job.”
Research done by a legal aid clinic run by the UC Berkeley School of Law found that expunging criminal records increased a person’s earnings by 20 percent and that 73 percent of people whose records were expunged got jobs within four months.
“There are a lot of layers to the process,” said Stern, noting that although 40 states now allow removal of minor infractions from criminal records, legal assistance is required.
Since employers use credit report agencies to perform checks, EJW corps will ensure that these reporting agencies receive the updated information.
According to Sloan’s NLJ article, “The program is modeled after Equal Justice Works’ Veteran’s Legal Corps, which sends lawyers and law students into temporary jobs assisting veterans.