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City, County Pledge To Help Eliminate Job Barriers For Former Inmates


According to the Department of Justice, around 70 million Americans have criminal records which hinder their chances of finding jobs. Monday, the city of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County signed the White House’s Fair Chance Business Pledge to help those who have done their time get a second chance.

In April of this year, the White House unveiled the pledge as a “call-to-action” for the private sector to improve their communities by eliminating barriers for those with a criminal record and creating a pathway for a second chance.

As of August, some 185 companies across the nation had adopted the pledge which includes a promise to consider the criminal history in proper context along with the applicant’s job skills.

“Our community only does well, moves forward and continues to succeed if we can all share in those successes,” said Allegheny County Executive Fitzgerald. “By providing opportunities for individuals with criminal histories to take alternate paths in their lives, we improve our community as well as have an impact on their lives and the lives of their families.”

Tim Stevens, CEO of the Black Political Empowerment Project, attended the signing ceremony.

“If we are committed as a community, as a region to the goal of opportunity for all people, we have to have an openness to find ways to allow people who want to have a new life to in fact, do that,” he said.

According to Stevens, it’s important that the city and county sign the pledge. 

“Governmental leaders are in position to set the tone and even help set the moral climate of what the private sector should be doing," he said. 

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said this is an important effort to promote inclusion.

"While many private sector firms are already joining us in hiring workers who happen to have criminal backgrounds, the Fair Business Chance Pledge provides a reminder that we all still have much work to do," Peduto said. 

Stevens said he believes that improving job opportunities for former inmates will reduce recidivism.

“If every company and corporation and nonprofit in the region accepted this opportunity,  we will make a difference," Stevens said. "We will begin to reduce crime; we will begin to build hope. Some people come from prisons and jails literally with no hope.”

Pittsburgh adopted Ban the Box in December 2012 and Allegheny County followed suit in November 2014 to help former inmates get at least an interview. Employers who “ban the box” do not ask job seekers to check a box if they have a criminal history on the initial application.  That question, however, can come up during the actual interview process.

Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago. kgavin@wesa.fm
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