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Press Release

U.S. Attorney Vance Says White House Fair Chance Pledge Should Have Sound Footing in Birmingham Area

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Alabama

BIRMINGHAM – As the White House and U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Monday hosted 19 American companies committed to eliminating hiring barriers for people with criminal records, U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance said she is proud that government and corporate leaders in the Birmingham area already are working to provide a pathway for a second chance to the thousands of people coming out of Alabama prisons each year.

The City of Birmingham in February became the first city in Alabama to “ban the box” on its hiring applications in order to give people with a criminal history a fair shot to compete for jobs and a chance to be judged on their qualifications. In November, Vance met with a group of Birmingham Business Alliance investors to discuss the importance of employment on the successful return to society of people leaving prison. These actions are right in step with the Fair Chance Business Pledge launched Monday by the Obama Administration, Vance said.

According to the White House, the pledge represents a call-to-action for all members of the private sector to improve their communities by eliminating barriers for those with a criminal record and creating a pathway for a second chance.

Many employers require job applicants to disclose conviction and arrest history on the initial job application. Often, when that disclosure is made, the applicant is immediately removed from further consideration for employment. The national “Ban the Box” campaign encourages governments and private employers to delay consideration of offense history within the hiring process.

There is strong data showing that ex-offenders who find employment are half as likely to reoffend as those who struggle to find a job, Vance said.

“For employers who believe it is unsafe to hire former inmates, there is also ample data showing that employed ex-offenders have better retention rates, better performance metrics, and pose no greater risk within the workplace than those without a conviction history,” she said.

In Alabama, more than 30,000 people are in prison or jail. The vast majority of those inmates – about 95 percent – will eventually return to the community. In Jefferson County alone, about 2,000 people return from prison annually.

​            “People who have completed a prison sentence for a crime they committed, should have a fair chance at success after paying their debt to society,” Vance said. “When they cannot get a driver's license or a job, they and the communities they live in are doomed to a cycle of repeated crime. Strong data shows that removing barriers to success and making it possible to find housing and transportation, and to train for and find employment reduces the likelihood that ex-offenders will commit new crimes and return to prison. In other words, we can make communities safer, families stronger and prisons less crowded and expensive for the taxpayer,” she said.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office will sponsor several educational events the week of April 25-29, which the Department of Justice has designated as National Reentry Week. Events in Birmingham will include a reentry simulation on Tuesday, April 26, and a roundtable conversation with ex-offenders at The Dannon Project on Thursday, April 28.

The reentry simulation, which will be presented at the National Alumni House on the University of Alabama at Birmingham campus, is designed to present an understanding of the many day-to-day obstacles someone coming out of prison faces in seeking a job, housing, or transportation. The Dannon Project is a non-profit organization that provides services to people coming out of prison, including counseling and job training. It also works with employers to find appropriate job placements and provides support to both employer and employee to encourage success on the job.

Businesses interested in information about hiri wh_fair_chance_business_pledge.pdfng ex-offenders, or for information about the Reentry Week events, call Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeremy Sherer, the office’s reentry coordinator, at 205-244-2019.

Updated April 12, 2016