Criminal Background Checks: A Hidden Life Sentence for People of Color

Today is my birthday; yes, today I’m 40yrs old. I jokingly said to a friend of mine yesterday, that anytime a black man in America lives to be 40yrs old and has never been to prison, he should be given some form of a tax break. We can call it a black tax or whatever you wanna call it, but the truth remains, that a distinct percentage of us are not as fortunate.

But anyway, speaking of the struggles of black men. Check out the following video which was featured in an article by Colorlines. In it, it illustrates just how employment policy ensures that some of us are excluded from the above-ground economy. Which, when you think of the fact that one in every four African Americans are currently underemployed. The site Sociological Images makes a point that further underscores the plight of many people of color:
Seventy-five percent of people who have left prison are currently unemployed.  When we see criminal recidivism, or the return to crime after release from prison, we should consider the possibility that we are essentially forcing people to turn to the “underground economy” by shutting them out of the “above ground” one.The effect this has on communities of color is devastating, to say the least. As we seek to rebound from this financial meltdown, and with the focus being on job creation by the administration. Not much is said about the blatant discriminatory practices and policies that affect us disproportionately, relative to other groups.

For example:
With millions of adults having criminal records — anything from underage drinking to homicide — a growing number of job seekers are having a rough time finding work. And more companies are trying to screen out people with bankruptcies, court judgments or other credit problems just as those numbers have swollen during the recession.

Just ask Adrienne Hudson [pictured above], a single mother who says she was fired from her new job as a bus driver at First Transit in Oakland, Calif., when the company found out she had been convicted seven years earlier for welfare fraud.

Hudson, 44, is fighting back with a lawsuit alleging the company’s hiring practice discriminates against black and Latino job seekers, who have arrest and conviction rates far greater than whites. A spokesman for First Transit said the company does not comment on pending litigation.

“People make mistakes,” said Hudson, who is black, “but when they correct their mistake, they should not be punished again outside of the court system.” (source)So what’s the point in focusing on job creation – particularly in communities of color – when discriminatory practices such as criminal background checks (and credit checks) are used to “inadvertently” exclude a significant percentages of our citizens? Upon repaying their debt to society, should they then be forced to live under a “life sentence” of exclusion from an “above-ground” job market?