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New York's Big Move to Help Former Convicts Build Better Lives

New legislation will make it harder for employers to discriminate against those looking to start over after past mistakes.

Councilman Jumaane Williams, who cosponsored the bill. Image via Flickr user Michael Fleshman

Although some employers aren’t “supposed to” discriminate against people with criminal backgrounds, the practice is widespread and deeply damaging. Nearly 90 percent of companies use criminal background checks, even though up to a quarter of Americans now have criminal backgrounds. That’s why New York City just passed The Fair Chance Act, a law that will prevent employers from reviewing an applicant’s criminal background until after the hiring offer has been made.

Image via Wikimedia

New York will join 17 states and more than 100 cities and counties across the country with similar laws, reports Gothamist. While the law won’t require hiring anyone with a criminal background, it prevents employers from looking into an applicant’s background until they’re officially hired. That makes it less likely for companies to discriminate against people with criminal pasts. “Today, I feel hope for people like me,” Marilyn Scales, who went to prison for dealing heroin, told The Daily News.

The Fair Chance Act seeks to bring opportunity to many formerly incarcerated people, but challenges remain. Lack of employment history, educational background, or networking connections make finding a job that much harder for people transitioning out of prison, who are disproportionately people of color. Still, the act passed by Mayor DeBlasio hopes to breathe hope where previously, there was none.

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