Deputy AG: It's 'Our Social Responsibility as Citizens' to Give Jobs to Ex-Cons'

By Susan Jones | November 2, 2015 | 10:40am EST

( - "It’s hard enough to find a job; just imagine if you have 'convicted felon' on your resume," the nation's deputy attorney general told a gathering at Columbia Law School last week.

In a pitch for criminal justice reform, Sally Quillian Yates said it's "part of our social responsibility as citizens" to ease convicted criminals' transition from prison to a productive life -- and that includes a willingness to hire them.

"While some companies have demonstrated a willingness to look past an applicant’s criminal history, there are more employers who won’t even give an ex-offender a chance to compete. Beyond job opportunities, we need more businesses to take an active role in the re-entry process.  We need companies to partner with prisons and re-entry programs, to help ex-offenders move seamlessly from prison life to a productive life.   

"Building safe communities is not solely the responsibility of law enforcement.  We all have an obligation, as citizens, to give those returning to society an opportunity, just a fighting chance, to live the lives we have.  

"So I challenge – and you should challenge – businesses and individuals to see this as part of our social responsibility as citizens – as a necessary step to create a safer and more stable society.  It is possible, but only if we convince them to think differently."

President Obama plans to travel to N.J. on Monday to address criminal justice reform.

In his Saturday radio address, Obama gave a preview: "I believe we can help those who have served their time and earned a second chance get the support they need to become productive members of society," he said.

Obama called it "unsustainable" to have millions of ex-cons leaving prison "without any ability to find a job after release."

"It's bad for communities and it's bad for our economy," Obama said. "So on Monday, I'll travel to Newark, New Jersey to highlight efforts to help Americans who've paid their debt to society reintegrate back into their communities. Everyone has a role to play, from businesses that are hiring ex-offenders to philanthropies that are supporting education and training programs."

Among the options under consideration -- removing the checkbox on job applications that tell an employer if an applicant has a criminal record.

Obama on Monday reportedly will issue an executive order directing federal employers to delay asking questions about a job applicant's criminal history until later in the application process.

Ex-cons aren't the only concern of the Obama administration.

Three years ago, the Obama administration unilaterally issued an immigration policy change, allowing young people who were brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents to apply for deferred deportation and work permits.

In June, the administration said more than 650,000 young people have been approved for deferred action since the DACA program began.

And starting this week, the Justice Department will begin a series of webinars for employers and human resources representatives explaining how to avoid employment discrimination based on national origin and citizenship status.

The free online seminars are being conducted by the Justice Department's "Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC)."

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