“This is our opportunity to use ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) dollars to really talk about a fair chance,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly Mitchell.
On Friday, January 27, Mitchell, the Department of Economic Opportunity, business and community leaders launched the Fair Chance Hiring Program designed to create hiring practices with the goal of getting 200 local businesses to commit to employing system-impacted individuals this year.
“What we did here today with L.A. County’s Economic and Workforce Development, our small business organization, it’s really to create opportunities for people to connect,” said Mitchell.
Held at Earvin “Magic” Johnson Recreation Center, the program launch featured endorsements and speeches from Mitchell, the Department of Economic Opportunity Director Kelly LoBianco, the Los Angeles Department of Human Resources Director Lisa Garrett, as well as remarks from Fair Chance employers, Clark Construction and Everytable.
A panel discussion led by Jeffery Wallace, commissioner of L.A. County Workforce Development Board & CEO/president of LeadersUp with LoBianco, Mitchell, Garrett, Carmen Garcia, executive director of Root & Rebound; Kwaku Gyabaah, western region vice president of Clark Construction; and Sam Polk, CEO of Everytable, discussed the importance of this program.
“People are not their worse mistake,” said Polk, “everybody has incredible amounts of genius especially folks that have had it tough — sometimes they’re the strongest folks.”
Polk continued, “We like to give shots to everybody, one of our corporate values is welcome everyone to the table and that’s what we do in our hiring as well.”
After the panel, business leaders, who have adopted Fair Chance hiring practices, spoke with employers about the misconceptions and benefits surrounding system-impacted individuals. The Department of Economic Opportunity has partnered with organizations Root & Rebound and LeadersUp to assist in providing resources and connections for the program.
“You’re seeing cross sector collaboration at the county level to ensure that Fair Chance [recipients] have opportunities,” said Wallace. “So, the business sector, the county, nonprofit sector are all coming together to generate opportunity makes this a very timely and effective opportunity for us to bring more employment and careers into the Fair Chance community.”
“People with criminal records experience over 44,000 barriers to reentry, including securing employment,” said Garcia. “With a livable income, system-impacted people can financially support themselves and their loved ones, lowering the risk of recidivism, creating safer communities, and reducing racial disparities in economic outcomes.
“Root & Rebound is excited to partner with L.A. County in this Fair Chance Hiring Program to elevate and create more job opportunities for our system-impacted incarcerated community members.”
The program comes at a time when the nationwide unemployment rate across system-impacted individuals is over 27% with more than 650,000 individuals returning from incarceration annually. The Fair Chance hiring program aims to increase awareness of the 2018 California Fair Chance Act, a “Ban the Box” law which prohibits employers with more than five employees from asking about the conviction history of an applicant before making a job offer.
“Fair chance hiring is good for the community and it’s good for business too,” said LoBianco. “By working with our America’s Job Centers of California, local businesses, who have reported hiring challenges across sectors, will now have access to a massive talent pool of local, diverse, and qualified workers ready to meet that hiring need while also ensuring that we drive competitive and inclusive growth right here in L.A. County.”
The launch event featured an art installation by photographer Brandon Tauszik with portraits of several Los Angeles system-impacted individuals, who have successfully gained employment through Fair Chance hiring, as well as each individual’s employer. Each portrait featured a statement from the individual, shedding light on the experiences of those returning to their communities and the workforce and the managers who gave them a fair chance.
Sithy Bin, who had been incarcerated for 15 years, having only been released two-and-one-half years ago, spoke about how Fair Chance changed his life.
“Going through the Fair Chance program gave me the opportunity to enter into the workforce,” said Bin. “Because of this opportunity I was able to come across a major organization and company that was willing to hire me.”
He continued, “They had a position open for a case manager and I met all the criteria, the qualifications for it and they gave me the chance.”
Bin is now a reentry specialist working with the Long Beach reentry advisory council and has co-founded his own reentry organization called Made New Foundation.
“I started my first job as a CHW and moved my way up to case manager and now I’m a senior life coach at the Anti-Recidivism Coalition,” said Pam Thompson.
She shared that this is a great opportunity for system-impacted individuals to take advantage of and create new futures for themselves.
“Go for it, whatever career [you’re] interested in, just go for it, it’s a lot of opportunities out there for formerly incarcerated individuals, take advantage of it.
“It’s all about second chances.”
The Fair Chance program will continue to host information sessions for businesses and system impacted individuals until June. Information sessions for system impacted jobseekers will offer the opportunity to connect with potential employers, learn more about fair chance hiring laws and legal support, receive free livescan services and identify career pathways in high growth industries in L.A. County.
Information sessions for businesses will provide information on the suite of L.A. County incentives and services offered through America’s Job Centers of California as well as discuss the benefits of Fair Chance hiring and contributing towards a more equitable and inclusive economy.
“We really want to talk about what impacts recidivism—it’s a job,” said Mitchell.
She added, “Not only a job, a career, so I’m proud as an employer, L.A. County as an employer, [of] 112,000, to hear from our director of HR (Human Resources), Ms. Garrett, talk about how L.A. County is incorporating Fair Chance into our hiring practices across the county.
“So, if we can do it, as the largest employer in the region, so can everybody else.”
For more information on the Fair Chance program and upcoming events, visit opportunity.lacounty.gov.