House Bill No. 5067 also known as Employment Application Fairness Act was introduced by 39 representatives and referred to the Committee of Commerce and Trade on October 5, 2017. According to Michigan Legislature, Employment Application Fairness Act aims to stop employers from creating or using an “initial application for employment that elicits or attempts to elicit information concerning conviction of a felony”. The rate of return to prison and or jail is currently 53% but if employed could drop to 7%. In order to promote House Bill 5067, Representatives from the Commerce and Trade Committee were contacted. An Op-ed advocating for the passing of House Bill 5067 was sent to the Flint Journal/MLive and talking points were created to educate local community members. These advocacy efforts increased education and awareness of those in the community, but additional advocacy efforts are needed to promote the passing of House Bill 5067. Providing this population with the option to leave out that they have a felony on an initial job application would provide them with a higher chance of attending an interview and obtaining employment and then reduce the risk of recidivism. In addition, the passing of House Bill 5067 would give people who have felonies the opportunity to introduce themselves to potential employers, showcase their talents and share their work history before being judged because of “the box”.
The sooner ex-offenders are employed the less likely they will commit future crimes resulting in further jail and or prison time. In order for Michigan House Bill 5067 to be passed advocacy efforts need to continue throughout the community. It would be very beneficial if those who have felonies on their record who have struggled with obtaining employment speak up and out about their experiences. Those who would benefit from the passing of this bill advocating on behalf of the bill would increase the chance of the bill being passed as they share personal stories. Introduction: An employer shall not make or use an initial application for employment that elicits or attempts to elicit information concerning conviction of a felony. People do not receive a fair chance at obtaining employment when they list on their job applications that they have a felony or felonies. According to Morenoff and Harding (2013), “Finding employment after being incarcerated can be an important step in a former inmate’s reintegration into the community. Yet this is frequently one of the most difficult tasks former offenders undertake”.
In the New York City study conducted by Pager and Western (2009), “employment prospects for applicants with criminal records improved when applicants had an opportunity to interact with the hiring manager, particularly when these interactions elicited sympathetic responses from the manager” as cited in The National Institute of Justice. The passing of “The Employment Application Fairness Act”, will allow this population a fair chance at employment, and will improve ease of obtaining a job interview. Studies have shown that recidivism increases when people who come from prison are unable to find employment. When someone reoffends and is sent back to prison it is costing the tax payers. According to the Federal Register of The Daily Journal of the United States Government, “the fee to cover the average cost of incarceration for Federal inmates in the Fiscal Year 2015 was $31,977.65 ($87.61 per day) per inmate” as cited in. People who have a felony or felonies have more difficulties obtain an interview or job due to discrimination, bias, and stereotypes.
People receives felonies for a range of different crimes such as but not limited to, driving while intoxicated, vandalism, assault, domestic violence/child abuse, possessing a gun without a license and disorderly conduct (rioting, public intoxication, etc.). According to Flurry (2017) as of 2010, 3 % of the total U.S. population has served time in prison, while people with felony convictions more broadly account for 8% of the overall population. “The study estimates that as of 2010 there were 19 million people in the U.S. that have a felony record, including those who have been to prison, jail or on felony probation”. Using the United Nations’ global human rights framework, the social problem or issue seems to be a violation of human rights as it seems to violate equality. Those who have felonies do not seem to receive equality when it comes to employment. Felon applications are not being given a fair shot by having criminal background question on initial application despite their qualifications and work history, whereas someone without a felony, the application would be looked over to see if they qualify for the position based of their work history as well as other qualifiers. My consumers who are a part of Michigan Prisoner Re-entry (MPRI) and people who are in the community who have a felony or felonies would be affected positively if the bill is passed and are currently being affected negatively as they are unable to obtain employment.
This bill will also affect participants who are in Mental Health Court and or Drug Court. My consumers along with others are affected negatively as they are being judged based of their criminal record on their job applications. People who have felonies are being pushed away and or turned down because of their criminal history. When people are released from prison and reenter into society they face many barriers such as housing and employment. I have many consumers who have a felony who have tried looking for a job once they were released and turned down due to their criminal history despite their work history and abilities. Many of those same consumers reoffend and are sent back to prison. Employment helps prevent recidivism, the current rate of return is 53% and if employed drops to 7%. According to Curley (2017), “The increased risk for re-offending caused by unemployment has a negative effect on overall recidivism rates, and that impact has been tracked by several recent studies” as cited in GenFKD (p.1). According to Curley (2017), “Ex-offenders need employment, and it’s important to recognize their barriers to leading successful lives. But high recidivism rates indirectly impact all of us — they inflate prison populations, which overflow correctional budgets that are paid for by taxpayers. So whether or not we care about the ex-offender population, we need to care about recidivism rates overall” as cited in GenFKD.
If this population was able to leave out that they have a felony on their job application and attend an interview, they would be more likely to obtain employment as well as reduce the rate of recidivism. Felons would be able to introduce themselves to potential employers and showcase their talents and share their work history before being judged because of “the box”. When felons are given opportunities to succeed and live a “normal” life after reentering society they are more likely to become thriving citizens and not reoffend. Letting prisoners out and not giving them the resources that they need and setting up barriers is like setting them up to fail in society. Lack of resources and employment opportunities for felons have incredible implications for both social and economic justice. As I mentioned before, felons who have difficulty finding employment reoffend which causes them to be incarcerated which cost tax payers. Felons who reoffend also cause the crime rate to incline. According to the NASW Code of Ethics (2008) ethical standard 1.05 Cultural Awareness and Social Diversity, “Social workers should understand culture and its function in human behavior and society, recognizing the strengths that exist in all cultures.
Social workers should have a knowledge base of their clients’ cultures and be able to demonstrate competence in the provision of services that are sensitive to clients’ cultures and to differences among people and cultural groups”. Efforts to understand this culture and advocate on behalf of this population and HB 5067, is in agreement with parts of the NASW Code of Ethics ethical standards and social justice as it strives for equality for felons to have the opportunity to obtain employment by making it pass the application phase and to the interview phase. Advocating for the passing of House Bill 5067, and making sure that people who have felonies have a fair chance at a job opportunity will help reduce recidivism and unemployment rates. The criminal background question will still be allowed for specific jobs such as child care. House Bill 5067 supports NASW Code of Ethics Standard 6.04 (a), which addresses equality as it relates to resources, employment, services, and opportunities that are needed to help someone meet their basic human needs and develop fully. Advocacy efforts on behalf of House Bill 5067 supports NASW Code of Ethics Standard 3.07 (a), which allows social workers to advocate within and outside their agencies for adequate resources to meet their consumer needs. Hoefer (2016), discussed four approaches to developing solutions which are as follows: Brainstorming, The “George Costanza Approach”, The “Win-Win” or “Super-Optimizing” Approach and The “What Can Be Done?” Approach.
Hoefer discussed that any of the approaches could be used to come up with alternate solutions but that it is more useful for more than one approach to be used. For HB 5067 I believe that The “What Can Be Done?” Approach would be great to help decipher actions that should be taken and what will be done with ease, moderate ease and difficulty to determine what actions will take more time than others. This approach will help put in perspective what steps need to be taken first to work towards a solution. To spread information about HB 5067 and its importance for my consumers and community members I will be writing a letter to Chair of the Commerce and Trade Committee. Writing a letter to the Committee Chair and my local representative who is a committee member over HB 5067 would fall in the relatively easy to do category within the “What Can Be Done?” approach. I will write an opinion piece and submit it to The Flint Journal which would fall into the moderately easy to do. I will also ask and assist consumers with writing a narrative related to HB 5067. Assisting my consumers with their narratives if they choose to write one would fall in to the relatively difficult to do category.
This activity would fall into the relatively difficult to do category not only am I working with felons but I am working with felons who have mental illness. I am working with consumers who can’t focus, are sometimes manic, paranoid amongst other things which would cause a simple task to become more complex. Methodology: In an effort to advocate for the passing of House Bill 5067, I contacted Commerce and Trade Committee Chair, Eric Leutheuser electronically. Committee member Sheldon Neeley was also contacted in the same manner to get House Bill 5067 added to the committees agenda and passed. Op-ed piece was completed and sent electronically to Dan Hawkins, opinion curator to be reviewed for The Flint Journal and or MLive. At this time follow-up is needed to see where the op-ed piece stand and what feedback I can receive from it. In an effort to get my consumers who have felonies to write a piece to the committee chair and or local representative, I had no willing participants. Although I had no willing participants I had the opportunity to learn more from my consumers as I assisted them with searching for employers that hire people who have felonies. Listening to my consumers and working more intensely with them has given more reason why this bill needs to be passed as people who have felonies face many obstacles outside of just employment.
On top of reaching out to the Committee Chair of Commerce and Trade, my local representative and my consumers I also created talking points to be distributed. I presented my talking points to my program director to be reviewed, approved and distributed amongst my coworkers that comes encounter with people who have felonies. I also shared my talking points with my consumers to highlight things they may already know but also to provide them with contact information for the Commerce and Trade Committee Chair. Although at this time my consumers have declined to write a piece to submit to the Committee Chair the opportunity is still there and with the talking points they have the resource needed to get it done. Discussion: Making strides towards awareness and passing of House Bill 5067 has led to educating my consumers as well as those who serve people within the community about it. I’ve sent a written piece to the Commerce and Trade Committee Chair, Eric Leutheuser as well as Sheldon Neeley, my local representative who also sits on the committee for House Bill 5067. At this time I haven’t heard from neither my local representative or the Commerce and Trade Committee Chair in regards to the letter I sent them in the earlier part of April. At this point, I plan to mail out the letters to both Mr. Leutheuser and Mr. Neeley as another form of communication.
I’ve also written an Op-ed piece to the Flint Journal/MLive. At this time I haven’t heard anything back in regards to the piece and if it’s going to be published whether in the Newspaper, on the website and or both. Although I haven’t heard from anyone regarding my written pieces, I did have the opportunity to submit my talking points to my Program Director for approval and distribution. My program director was able to give me feedback and gave me insight on other ways I could help advocate for this population. She mentioned that I look into places where I could volunteer that service this population and talk to the staff and consumers there in regards to my advocacy efforts for House Bill 5067. I’ve also been unsuccessful at this time with getting one of my consumers to sit and write a piece with me or on their describing how this bill could help them and the hardships they are experiencing now because the bill is not set in place. Although my consumers at this time have chosen not to write a piece to the committee chair and or the local representative, I continue to let them know that it’s an option so that they voice can be heard and change can be implemented. House Bill 5067 is currently at a standstill and is still waiting to be passed by the House there has been significant effort made to advocate on behalf of this population and educate those in the community about the bill and how it can affect people positively.
In the future I hope that the current advocacy efforts that have been made inspire new advocacy efforts. “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples”(Mother Teresa). While working on advocacy efforts for House Bill 5067 I learned a great deal about macro advocacy and legislative advocacy. I learned that there are a lot of steps that needs to be taken when advocating for legislature. I’ve learned that no advocacy effort is too small and that you must continue to monitor the advocacy situation as things tend to happen. According to Advocacy Practice for Social Justice (2016), “Laws may be implemented, but then be hamstrung by counterproductive rules, low resource allocations, bureaucratic indifference, and so on”. Conclusion: According to Solomon (2012), “Regardless of the legal restrictions, the majority of employers indicate that they would ‘probably’ or ‘definitely’ not be willing to hire an applicant with a criminal record, according to a study by Harry Holzer and colleagues” as cited in National Institute of Justice. HB 5067 has been created to give people have a felony or felonies an opportunity to obtain employment without being judged based on their job application. My advocacy efforts haven’t seemed to make a huge impact as I have not heard back from anyone and the bill is at a standstill.
Although I haven’t heard from anyone my advocacy efforts has brought awareness to the problem as well as House Bill 5067 and its importance for my consumers and community members. I have also given my consumers, those who are faced with this problem the opportunity and resources to tell their story and how they’re affected. By giving my consumers the opportunity and resources to advocate on their own behalf, I have embodied ethical standard 6.02 Public Participation which states, “Social workers should facilitate informed participation by the public in shaping social policies and institutions”. In the future I believe that those who are directly affected by the criminal background question on job applications should write a piece to the Committee Chair of Commerce and Trade discussing their everyday hardships due the question and how the removal of it can help them prosper. Having more social workers, parole officers and other who work with people who have felonies write to the Committee Chair of Commerce and Trade in regards to the passing of House Bill 5067. As I plan to continue to work with the current population, I do plan to continue advocating on behalf of them in regards to this bill. I have plans to mail the letters that I have written to my local representative as well as the committee chair.