SENATE FLOOR ALERT – Fair Chance Occupational License Bills Head for Floor Vote!

AB 2138 (Chiu and Low) and AB 2293 (Reyes): Fair Chance Licensing Bill Package

California has one of the largest prison, parole, and probation populations in the United States where 8 million people have been impacted by the justice system through prior convictions. Access to family sustaining employment is critical to ensuring stability and success for the many women and men coming home, yet far too many people face enormous and unnecessary barriers, including being denied licensure in many occupations despite previous work experience, qualifications, rehabilitation, and successful completion of workforce training. 

AB 2138 and AB 2293 remove barriers to occupational licensing for many Californians who have already paid their debt to society and have demonstrated rehabilitation. These bills focus on reforming the overly restrictive licensing policies of the Department of Consumer Affairs-DCA (AB 2138), and gathering relevant data to evaluate the licensing policies of the Emergency Medical Services Authority-EMSA (AB 2293) that allow for the denial, revocation, and/or suspension of licenses because of prior arrests and convictions. Even those who gained job-specific training while incarcerated are still barred from working in their occupational field. This includes serving as a fire fighter while incarcerated, yet being denied an emergency medical technician (EMT) license upon release.

This bill package improves access to licensure by doing the following:

  • Prohibits DCA, from denying or revoking a license for the following reasons: a non-serious conviction older than seven years, a dismissed conviction, or a non-conviction act that is not directly related to the qualifications or duties of the profession for which the application is made.
  • Prohibits boards from requiring applicants to self-disclose criminal history information.
  • Requires boards to collect and publish demographic data about the applicants who are denied a license or whose license has been revoked or suspended based on criminal history.

By improving access to good jobs and careers, and ensuring all Californians have the opportunity to contribute and thrive, we can reduce recidivism, promote community safety, and secure a future of shared prosperity.

Call your CA State Senator [find yours here] and say, “We strongly urge your ‘AYE’ vote on AB 2138 and AB 2293!”

Action Alert: Your Calls are Working! Keep Telling These Senators to Support AB1008 Ban The Box!

Your calls are swinging Senators to support AB 1008! This Ban The Box / Fair Chance Hiring bill is now almost on the Senate Floor for a final vote!

We need your help to get AB 1008 off the Senate Floor by calling these THREE holdout Senators and have them tally your support for the bill. 

AB1008 - Call Flyer3 - targeted senators - 12ix17

Feel free to distribute these through your social media networks:

AB1008 - CA Senator Hernandez - 10ix17

AB1008 - CA Senator Glazer - 10ix17

AB1008 - CA Senator Newman - 10ix17

AOUON-Logo-Circle w SpanishAnd thank YOU for taking the time to support AB 1008 (McCarty) and all the current and formerly incarcerated people and our family members.

Keep up the fight!

For more information about our Ban the Box Campaign, check out our Toolkit here!

Action Alert: Call These Holdout Senators, Tell Them To Support AB1008 Ban The Box!

AB 1008 (McCarty) passed out of the California State Assembly and is now almost on the Senate Floor for a final vote! We need your help to get AB 1008 off the Senate Floor by calling these four holdout Senators and have them tally your support for the bill. 

AB1008 - Call Flyer2 - targeted senators - 10ix17 2

Feel free to distribute these through your social media networks:

AB1008 - CA Senator Hueso - 10ix17

AB1008 - CA Senator Hernandez - 10ix17

AB1008 - CA Senator Glazer - 10ix17

AB1008 - CA Senator Newman - 10ix17

AOUON-Logo-Circle w SpanishAnd thank YOU for taking the time to support AB 1008 (McCarty) and all the current and formerly incarcerated people and our family members.

Keep up the fight!

For more information about our Ban the Box Campaign, check out our Toolkit here!

Dorsey Nunn: Real Clear Radio Interview

Dorsey at his most amazing self!
Bill Freeza interviews Dorsey for Real Clear Radio (broadcast 4/30/16), who turns the 20 minutes into Movement magic: clearly conveying LSPC / All of Us or None’s current work on Ban the Box & restoring our rights, sharing his personal prison experience, & reminding us that language & labels can encourage or condemn formerly incarcerated people on our route through reentry.

Peninsula Activist Lobbies for Federal “Ban the Box” for Ex-cons

Read the full article, by Brendan Bartholomew, on the SF Examiner.


Dorsey Nunn, executive director of LSPC and co-founder of All of Us or None

2 August 2015 – President Barack Obama has received national — and in some cases bipartisan — support for his recent calls to reform criminal justice in the U.S., and some impetus for his ideas might be traced to San Mateo County-based activist Dorsey Nunn.

Nunn was among demonstrators who rallied outside the White House on Thursday calling upon the president to follow through on his proposal to “ban the box” on federal employment applications asking job seekers if they’ve ever been convicted of a crime.

Nunn, who is executive director of Legal Services for Prisoners With Children and co-founder of the civil rights group All of Us or None, has been advocating this change for years. In 2013, his organizations helped pass California Assembly Bill 218, which prohibited public employers from asking most job applicants about their conviction histories.

California is one of at least 10 states that have removed questions about conviction histories from job applications, and 50 cities or counties have taken similar actions.

“Ban the box” legislation does not require public agencies to ignore criminal records where they might be relevant, such as when hiring law enforcement officers. And Nunn said the executive order he’s asking the president to sign would still allow federal employers to ask about conviction histories, but those questions would come later when an agency is ready to make an offer of employment.

In addition to preventing such questions from being used to screen out applicants, Nunn and his allies are asking for transparency and an appeals process. Applicants denied employment because of past convictions would have a chance to ask employers to consider mitigating factors, Nunn said, such as how long ago they were convicted and whether they’ve shown signs of being rehabilitated.

Rehabilitation is a deeply personal topic for Nunn, who, at the age of 19, was sentenced to life in prison for his role in an incident that left one person dead. Asked whether the life sentence made him think about giving up, Nunn said, “Hope is a hard thing to kill, homey.”

A father of two at the time of his conviction, Nunn said being able to maintain a relationship with his children was crucial to his rehabilitation.

“When I went to prison, I saw people abused and tortured,” Nunn said, “My contact with my daughter and other people helped me maintain my humanity in an ugly situation.”

Nunn was 31 years old when he was released from prison, but he struggled with crack addiction for several years, and says conditions in the East Palo Alto-Menlo Park community he was released into conspired to keep him addicted.

“The way we practice re-entry in California is reprehensible,” Nunn said, noting that preparing to leave prison can be nerve-wracking for inmates who know they will have no resources or support system on the outside.

Nunn eventually cleaned himself up, and with 25 drug-free years under his belt, the activist is something of an evangelist for sobriety, having founded Free At Last Community Recovery, a drug rehab center in East Palo Alto.

Despite running an organization with a $1.3 million annual budget, meeting Obama and his staff, and maintaining a quarter-century of sobriety, Nunn says he tries to remain humble and keep a good sense of humor about himself.

“I always joke with my kids: if you see me fall off the wagon, hide the check book!” Nunn said.

“That Box Was The Bane Of My Existence”

Read the full article, by Mark Otiz, on Community Change.

28 July 2015 – On Thursday, advocates will rally in front of the White House and the Department of Justice to demand that President Obama issue an executive order to Ban the Box and give people who have been incarcerated a fair chance to find a job and work toward economic success when they get out.

Currently, more than 100 cities and counties in 18 states have ban the box legislation, which means that employers won’t ask a job applicant about his  or her incarceration history until the person receives a conditional offer of employment. That’s makes the initial hiring process fair and doesn’t automatically shut people out of jobs.

President Obama is making huge strides to acknowledge the difficulties and lack of resources that people face when they are released from prison. During his visit to the El Reno federal prison on July 16, which made him the first sitting president to visit a prison, he met with six incarcerated people and noted, “Visiting with these six individuals.  I’ve said this before — when they describe their youth and their childhood, these are young people who made mistakes that aren’t that different than the mistakes I made and the mistakes that a lot of you guys made.  The difference is they did not have the kinds of support structures, the second chances, the resources that would allow them to survive those mistakes.”

Advocates such as Dorsey Nunn, executive director of All of Us or None, says the president is on the right track, but needs to do more. He says the president has to focus on helping not just people convicted of nonviolent drug offenses, but all people who’ve served their time and are released. He says this especially holds true for those people convicted of violent offenses who need the additional support so they don’t land back in the clutches of the criminal justice system.

That’s why Nunn is making the trip from San Francisco to D.C. on Thursday.

“We’re demanding that he lead,” and give the 70 million Americans with criminal records a fair chance to success, he says.

Working to give formerly incarcerated people their rights back has been an issue he has felt deeply and personally since he left prison 34 years ago. He has been fighting for prisoners’ rights ever since.

“I went in at 19 and got out at 31,” he says. He says the world that existed when he went in as a young man had change drastically when he was released in 1981. That’s when he saw a flaw in the society he lived in.

“I had no clue of our societal addiction to punishment,” he says.

His first weeks out of prison were frustrating. Prison life left a lasting mark on him.

“I couldn’t forget my experience,” he says.

Unlike many of his compatriots, Dorsey was able to find work two week after he was released, working for the Prison Law Office, where he would began fighting for better conditions for the imprisoned of our country. “It gave me a deeper purpose,” he says.

Dorsey and fellow advocates came up with the concept and the term of “ban the box” as a way to give the formerly incarcerated a fair chance for work. At the heart of the proposal is that an applicant’s qualifications are the first consideration, not their previous convictions. This would allow applicants to be judged on their merits as opposed to the blacklisting that comes with a felony conviction.

The current difficulties that the formerly incarcerated have with finding work has contributed to the vicious cycle that has become America’s prison industry, where people get out, can’t find work that sustains them and their families and commit an act that find them back in the prison system.

“My success would be don’t go back to prison,” Dorsey says. He says prison does little to rehabilitate and that the “box” people have to check off when applying for work about their conviction history was another tool in the vicious cycle of felony discrimination.

“That box was the bane of my existence,” he says. “That box banned me from health care for my family and made our children less healthy.”

He says he is frustrated with the nation’s idea that punishment is the only way to address crime and our inability as a society to forgive those who have paid their debt to society. He says part of that also means recognizing that our current criminal justice system, which incarcerates black men at higher rates than other groups, is a symptom of the structural discrimination that exists in our society.

Dorsey and other advocates from across the country will descend on Washington this Thursday to insist that forgiveness through rehabilitation and resources be part of the solution.

For Dorsey, the fight doesn’t just end with the President’s support but a nationwide awakening for employers to recognize that formerly convicted felons deserve a second chance.

“If we can drive American corporations to stop discriminating, we can stop this,” he says.

California Group Asks President Obama to “Ban the Box”

Read the full article by Suzanne Potter on Public News Service

Advocates for people in prison are asking President Barack Obama to ban the criminal history box on federal job applications

Advocates for people in prison are asking President Barack Obama to ban the criminal history box on federal job applications

23 June 2015 -Advocates for prisoners incarcerated in California are asking President Barack Obama to take action to ban the question about criminal convictions on applications for federal jobs, and positions with federal contractors.

Their calls come after the president’s recent comment that the country should “ban the box” on all job applications. Doing so would delay a criminal background check until the applicant has had a chance to prove his or her qualifications.

Dorsey Nunn, executive director of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children (LSPC), says the national publicity has breathed new life into the group’s campaign All of Us or None. “For him to say it was really important,” he says. “Some of us have been out here doing this work for 10 years trying to get a fair shake and a clean application.”

California banned the box for public-sector jobs in July 2014. San Francisco has banned it for all jobs in the city, public and private. To the north, Oregon Governor Kate Brown signed that state’s “ban the box” legislation last week.

Nunn notes there are 70 million Americans with a criminal record who have a hard time even getting a job interview, which creates a permanent underclass disproportionately affecting people of color.

He says the focus in California is now on removing the question from housing, student aid and all private-sector job applications.

“The process would be a lot fairer,” he says. “I don’t think you can get to public safety through force and fear. I think it takes rehabilitation and forgiveness.”

The American Civil Liberties Union is currently circulating a petition on the issue, which requires 25,000 signatures to force a government response. It has received 21,700 signatures so far.

While counting President Obama’s NAACP speech and prison visit as big wins, let us keep fighting

You can read the full article, written by our very own executive director Dorsey Nunn, in the SF BayView here!

18 July 2015 – On Tuesday, July 14, one day after commuting the sentences of 46 people currently serving sentences for nonviolent drug offenses in federal prisons, President Obama addressed the NAACP National Convention in Philadelphia. In his address, the president declared that our criminal justice system is “built on the legacy of slavery, segregation and other structural inequalities that [have] compounded over generations.” Our current system, the president said, is “not an accident.”

As part of his solution to begin to address fixes to our system, the president asked the country to invest in linking prisoners with prospective employers, to “Ban the Box” on job applications so that people have a decent shot at a job interview.

We applaud the president for supporting Ban the Box, a campaign initiated by All of Us or None, and are hopeful that this public message is a sign that the president will support his views with action. Since All of Us Or None launched the campaign to Ban the Box over a decade ago, over one third of the nation – 14 states and over 100 cities and counties – have passed fair chance hiring policies, intended to protect people with arrest and conviction records from discrimination on initial job applications.

We have steadily gained traction nationwide, and in May of this year, Congresswoman Barbara Lee sent a letter urging the president to adopt a federal fair chance hiring policy that would prohibit federal contractors from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal record history on initial applications. All of Us or None has called on the president to sign an executive order that would require all private contractors to similarly “ban the box.”

President Obama commuted sentences for 90 people – a fraction of the 2.3 million people behind bars in our country, and yet more than any other president since Lyndon Johnson. By issuing an executive order to Ban the Box, he would provide hundreds of thousands of people the “decent shot” he says they deserve. This would be an opportunity for the president to lead the country towards a more just criminal system.

Responding to the movement begun by the California prisoners’ hunger strikes in 2011 and 2013 to stop mass incarceration and longterm solitary confinement, President Obama became the first sitting president to visit a federal prison, where he met with a group of prisoners. Afterward, he asked Attorney General Loretta Lynch to “start a review of the overuse of solitary confinement across American prisons.” Accompanying the president is Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Charles Samuels (right). – Photo: NBC News

The president also commented on the use of solitary confinement in prisons across the country, and said that these practices are more likely to make inmates more hostile and violent, that this practice “is not going to make us safer, not stronger,” imploring us to remember that the vast majority of people who serve time in prison will be released. As he finished his remarks, the president called on the American tradition of remaking ourselves, the Christian traditions that “all of us need redemption,” and that “none of us is without sin” that “justice and redemption go hand in hand.”

We are heartened by the president’s message of justice for all, including for those who endure and are injured by solitary confinement – spending 23 hours in an 8-foot-by-10-foot cell every day across our country. Legal Services for Prisoners with Children has been litigating a suit against the state of California alleging the prolonged use of solitary confinement in Pelican Bay State Prison is a violation of the Eighth Amendment.

The next, crucial step President Obama must take to decrease the prison population is to commit his values to action by following the lead of human rights organizations across the globe and identifying solitary confinement as a form of torture, then prohibiting its use in prisons and jails in our country.

The president urged Congress to act, to get “smart on crime” by moving away from blanket reliance on mandatory minimums for nonviolent offenses to investing in crime prevention tactics that target juveniles and adults. On this end, the president offered concrete solutions such as job readiness programs, as well as a more abstract plea for empathy – that all children should be seen as important by their parents, neighbors, law enforcement and country.

The first, crucial step the president must take to end mass incarceration is to himself embody this empathy and to rethink his statement that “there are a lot of folks who belong in prison” and that our neighborhoods are safer thanks to police officers who put “violent criminals” in jail. This is a radical suggestion for a country so torn apart by racism, when the vast majority of those folks “who belong in prison” – those children and adults the president initially urged us to love and to see as important – are African-American and Latino.

But we will not escape the shadow of mass incarceration until we remember, as a country, that the legacies of slavery, segregation and other structural inequalities are endured by all people – those who commit crimes, both serious and non-serious, and those who punish those crimes. Fixing a criminal justice system built on these legacies requires us to dismantle all of that system – not just the parts that seem most politically feasible at the moment.

President Obama’s words and actions are a promising start. Let us all continue to push him further.

Oregon Becomes the Latest State to “Ban the Box”

Find the full article, written by Alex Mierjeski, on

Oregon becomes the latest of 18 states, more than 100 cities, and many major companies that have already banned the box!

13 June 2015 – Oregon lawmakers approved legislation Thursday that would ban employers from asking about an applicant’s criminal record, significantly bettering ex-convicts’ chances of securing work after serving time.

Senate legislators, in a 21-8 vote, passed an amended version of a bill put forward by labor activists earlier in the legislative session that would have restricted an employer’s ability to conduct background checks until a formal job offer is issued. The House amended the bill to bar applicants from suing employers for violating the law, while freeing up employers to inquire when criminal history is required by law. Ultimately, the new proposal clarifies that a criminal conviction is not a valid reason to not hire someone, the Oregonianreports. It now heads to Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s desk, after an expected re-approval by the House.

“We believe we have found that balance,” Portland Democratic Sen. Michael Dembrow said in the chamber Thursday. “The employer is free to make the decision … the key, colleagues, is that the applicant will have the opportunity to explain their story.”

The bill, which passed with bipartisan support, was a win for labor organizers, nonprofit representatives, and ex-cons, and general supporters of a national movement to “ban the box” from job applications. The national campaign to “ban the box,” started by ex-convicts and their families, has seen a number of recent successes nationwide. On Wednesday, the New York City council passed a measure barring employers from rescinding a job offer based on a criminal conviction before an explanation, and an interactive discussion, Huffington Post repots. The NYC bill had support from “Orange Is the New Black” author Piper Kerman.

Also on Wednesday, Ohio enacted a ban the box legislation mandating past convictions only be listed on state civil service job applications.

“We believe [the criminal history] question, appearing on many applications for employment, housing, public benefits … and the subsequent practice of no longer considering applicants with arrest and conviction record[s], is the basis for widespread systemic discrimination against people who have been in prison or who have past convictions of any kind,” Manuel La Fontaine of All of Us or None, a project of the Legal Services for Prisoners with Children that coined the “Ban the Box” term, told ATTN:.

Pending House re-approval and a signature from Gov. Brown, Oregon would become the 18th state to enact a form of ban the box legislation.

“As Oregonians, we believe that anyone who makes a mistake and learns from it deserves a second chance,” Tom Chamberlain, president of Oregon AFL-CIO, said in a release. “This bill helps make it possible for thousands of people who have paid their debts to society to one day get a job and pull their lives and their families back together.”

Oregon AFL-CIO helped co-author the original bill with the Urban League of Portland, which says they’re planning to introduce mirror legislation of the original version to the Portland City Council.

Pressure Builds for Feds to ‘Ban the Box’

Find the full article, written by Freddie Allen, on District Chronicles.

The ‘Ban the Box’ campaign aims to remove the question about prior criminal background from employment applications.

22 June 2015 – Sources say 17 states and Washington, D.C., have passed laws making it easier for ex-offenders to find employment. Civil rights and community groups that advocate for returning citizens are now pushing the White House to do the same.

Blacks – who are nearly 13 percent of the U.S. population – account for 35.7 percent of the state and federal prison populations, compared to Whites who make up 32.8 percent.

“Our justice system is deeply unjust and unfair,” said Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. “We often focus on the incarceration rate and the impact that policing and sentencing have on communities of color, but the injustice of our system is much more widespread.”

Henderson alleges that this is due to the United States continually punishing people long after they have paid their debts to society.

Most people who are convicted of crimes return to their communities, often facing greater challenges when it comes to finding affordable housing, educational opportunities and jobs.

According to an NELP report, “Economists estimated that because people with felony records and formerly incarcerated people have poor job prospects, the nation’s gross domestic product in 2008 was between $57 and $65 billion lower than it would have been had they been gainfully employed.”

Some of the biggest companies in the United States are taking notice and revising their hiring policies to provide greater opportunities to ex-offenders. KOCH Industries, worth more than $100 billion, recently joined Wal-Mart, Target and Home Depot to “ban the box” on job applications.

According to the NELP, “There are a total of 17 states representing nearly every region of the country that have adopted the policies: California (2013, 2010); Colorado (2012); Connecticut (2010); Delaware (2014); Georgia (2015); Hawaii (1998); Illinois (2014, 2013); Maryland (2013); Massachusetts (2010); Minnesota (2013, 2009); Nebraska (2014); New Jersey (2014), New Mexico (2010); Ohio (2015); Rhode Island (2013); Vermont (2015); and Virginia (2015).”

Additionally, six states have required that private employers remove the question about criminal background from job applications.

Andrea Marta, the campaign manager for Lifelines to Healing, said that finding a job is the key to helping people return to their communities.

“Jobs help provide redemption and the second chance that many of our folks need to be successful once they come home,” said Marta. “People can walk away from the cycle of violence and poverty through a job that can prevent it.”

Earlier this month, a group from PICO National Network – which included ex-offenders – met with White House officials and staffers from the Congressional Black Caucus to discuss recommendations for returning citizens facing employment and housing barriers.

Ban the Box logoAccording to Maurice Emsellem, program director for NELP, the ‘ban the box’ legislation is also in compliance with current civil rights laws that require employers to take into account the age of the record directly related to the job or rehabilitation programs that the applicant has completed.

In 2012, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) released guidance on hiring practices, encouraging companies to be more mindful of how they use an applicant’s criminal background history in judging whether they’re qualified to do the job. This is to prevent them from unintentionally violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Dorsey Nunn, executive director of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children and co-founder of All of Us or None, alleges that if the federal government is going to spend his tax dollars, then he should have access to everything that they spend his money on. That includes jobs with companies that do business with and for the federal government.

“There are boxes all over the place that exclude me from access to a meaningful life,” said Nunn. “‘Ban the box’ is more than a question of fair chance hiring. I want the full restoration of my civil and human rights and this is just the first step in the process.”