Last night, in a step toward justice, the Richland County Council joined over 150 jurisdictions and 33 states in removing questions about criminal convictions on job applications, or “banning the box.” The resolution will apply to all public sector jobs in the second largest county in South Carolina. Championed by Yvonne McBride, the measure follows on the heels of Columbia Mayor Steven Benjamin calling on the city to end discriminatory hiring practices during his State of the City speech earlier this year. The #WORKINGfuture campaign will work alongside the County Council to strengthen the resolution and train county officials during implementation.
“We applaud the Richland County Council for approving this important resolution and moving South Carolina one step closer towards a statewide fair chance hiring standard. I returned from prison after 22 years to a very unwelcoming job market.. Nearly one in three working age adult has a criminal record. When we discriminate solely based on a record, we are hurting mothers, fathers, and neighbors who live among us,” said Lester Young, JustLeadershipUSA South Carolina Statewide Organizer with the #WORKINGfuture campaign. “We must acknowledge that employment discrimination against people with records creates what amounts to a second sentence, wherein people cannot find employment and thus cannot feed families and lead fulfilling lives. . A criminal conviction should not be a permanent scarlet letter. We trust that this action by the Richland County Council is just the beginning and that cities across the state will recognize the economic needs of the people and families that have been most affected by mass criminalization. We are excited about working with Richland County to strengthen their resolution and hope in the future that cities will pass ordinances that codify fair hiring as the law of the land.”
Over the last eighteen months, under the leadership of Mr. Young, the #WORKINGfuture campaign has built a coalition of community members in Richland County, collecting nearly 8,000 signatures from residents in support of ban the box. The campaign organized supporters across the City of Columbia and Richland County to educate elected officials on the importance of fair hiring policy to the creation of meaningful opportunities for people returning home from prison. The campaign hosted a roundtable with public officials and elected that generated increased interest in moving toward comprehensive fair hiring practices. In South Carolina alone there are 712 state laws and statutes that create barriers for people with records to critical everyday needs, particularly employment. Nationwide, nearly 27 percent of formerly incarcerated people struggle with unemployment, even as they are more actively involved in looking for work than the general public.