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September 9, 2013
Another View: Fair hiring policy gets an unfair rap

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(Sept. 9 -- By Gregory Boyle and Joseph Clopton, Special to The Bee)

In recent weeks, both the front page and the editorial pages of The Sacramento Bee featured the inflammatory story of Cary Renee Moore, who was hired by the High-Speed Rail Authority despite an embezzlement record involving her prior stint in a state job. ("How state hired a thief," Page A1, Aug. 29 and "State should ask about past crimes," Editorials, Aug. 30.)

The splashy coverage unfairly criticized a state policy adopted in 2010 that removes questions about an applicant's criminal history from state job applications while allowing the state to conduct a background check later in the hiring process.

This policy had nothing to do with Moore's erroneous hiring. All Moore's case really shows is that someone who was determined to manipulate the state hiring system was able to do so, thanks largely to a name change. Even if the criminal history question remained on the application, nothing would have prevented her from lying on the application as well.

The state's policy serves a critical goal - to reduce unfair hiring barriers facing people with criminal records while preserving safety and security at the workplace. A record 1 in 4 adults has a criminal record, which makes it exceedingly difficult to find work in today's tight labor market, even if the offense is a minor one that dates back to one's youth.

Although they don't often make front-page news, there are countless Californians with records who have struggled hard to turn their lives around. They include a mother and a new grandmother who was hired by the city of Richmond four years after serving time in state prison, thanks to the city's fair hiring policy adopted in 2012. This woman proved herself qualified for the job and is now contributing back to her community.

The Bee got it right last year, in an editorial ("A Job is Best Crime Prevention Program," June 27, 2012) that explained the virtues of removing the criminal record question from state job applications while still allowing employers to conduct a background check later in the hiring process. In the past year, three more states have adopted this wise policy, joining the six other states besides California, and more than 50 cities that have done so as well.

It's not just about fairness for people with records - it's also good for California's economy and for the safety of our communities to ensure we're maximizing job opportunities for everyone.

Father Gregory Boyle is founder and executive director of Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, and the Rev. Joseph Clopton is a local pastor and active member of Sacramento Area Congregations Together.

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