A plan to protect former ex-cons from their criminal past when they apply for housing or jobs was defended Thursday by Jessica Flintoft, chair of San Francisco’s Reentry Council, the group which recommended the proposal.
“It’s a policy move that about 30 other jurisdictions have done. And so while we are getting a lot of attention — I think because our name is San Francisco — we are not the first to do this,” Flintoft said. “It’s a way in which we could move the box back on employment and housing applications so that people are not asked upfront if they have a history of arrests or conviction. When that happens they are often immediately rejected instead of first determining if they would otherwise be qualified.”
Her comments came during a hearing on the state’s criminal justice system realignment plan, where thousands of inmates will be turned over to local counties. San Francisco is expected to receive about 700 later this fiscal year.
The state’s proposal is fueling talks about how to turn around the lives of ex-cons to keep them out of trouble and being able to secure housing and jobs is a big key to their success.
The Human Rights Commission is holding a number of meetings as it considers drafting legislation that would eliminate having to declare being convicted of a crime in housing and job applications.
Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who chairs the committee, said during the hearing break that The City should address the issue in some manner, but had yet to take a position on a specific proposal. “They are going to need to address it because of the added population of inmates and because of the high bar of discrimination of access to housing, except in already crime-distressed neighborhoods,” Mirkarimi said. “Somehow The City will have to address those hurdles as well as hurdles to job training and job placement.”