Packed House Kicks Off Fair Hiring Campaign

November 16, 2010
Durham, NC: A campaign for fair employment for people with a conviction history got off to a spirited start last night at an overflow meeting convened by the Durham Second Chance Alliance.
More than 150 people came together at Durham’s main library to say: “We deserve a Second Chance.” They vowed to move ordinances before the Durham City Council and Durham County Commissioners removing the box that asks whether an applicant has ever been arrested or convicted of a crime from employment applications.
“I refuse to be defined by the worst mistake I ever made.” “I should not be prohibited from employment for the rest of my life because of a stupid move I made a long time ago.” “I have come a long way, and I deserve a chance to make a living and support my family.” These and other stories were shared by meeting participants.
More than 1.6 million people in North Carolina have criminal records; many are African American. In Durham County nearly 4,000 people are currently on probation or parole and thousands more have criminal convictions. They face constant discrimination in hiring, housing, and services which undermines their families and whole communities.
“Employment is crucial to reduce recidivism-returning to prison, resulting in a safer community and lower cost to taxpayers,” argues Gilda Womble of the Second Chance Alliance.
The Second Chance Alliance was initiated by InStepp, Inc., North Carolina Justice Center, Southern Coalition for Social Justice, Southside Neighborhood Association, Organization for D.A.D.S. and Action NC. The next step in the campaign is a noontime rally at Durham City Hall on Dec. 13. More than 24 cities and several states have passed “Ban the Box” ordinances, as such fair hiring initiatives are often called.
“We understand that a person’s complete background and qualifications must be considered before they are offered a job,” says Alliance member Daryl Atkinson. But a person’s conviction history should only be considered when it might actually affect a person’s ability to do the specific job applied for.”
The group plans to bring an ordinance before the Durham City Council by the end of January 2011.
Bob Wing, Organizing and Media Coordinator
Southern Coalition for Social Justice
Gilda Womble, Executive Director
InStepp, Inc.
Ajamu Dillahunt, Community Outreach Coordinator
NC Justice Center