For 30 years, WMATA hired people with criminal convictions, giving people who have been previously incarcerated a chance at stable employment. Since December 2012, however, WMATA changed their policy and will no longer hire people with almost any felony conviction or any weapons violation, even misdemeanors. This applies to new applicants and current employees, regardless of how long ago they had a conviction.
In consideration of the facts that:
- 10 percent of the current population of DC, or 60,000 people, have criminal records, with as many as 8,000 people returning to the District each year after serving a sentence in prison or jail.
- Arrest and imprisonment rates disproportionately affect African American and Latino men; according to GWU Law Professor Donald Braman, 3 out of 4 of the District’s young African American men are likely to be incarcerated at least once in their lives due to well-documented disparities in criminal enforcement
- Low-income populations and people of color are unfairly targeted by police surveillance and are disproportionately incarcerated
- Having a criminal record is like a scarlet letter in the job market; in a survey of 500 DC residents who had served time in prison or jail in 2011, 46 percent were unemployed, most had experienced constant roadblocks, and 80 percent said they were asked “all the time” about their criminal record when seeking employment.
- Income is one of the strongest and most consistent predictors of health and disease; people who are low-income experience higher rates of disease and early death
- Persistent unemployment and poverty can have devastating consequences for not only the individuals, but for their families who may depend on them for support
- Securing meaningful employment with good pay and benefits can have positive effects on reducing recidivism; employment is perceived to be a major step in getting “back on track”, supporting one’s family, and becoming a productive and contributing member of society
- Stable employment has been shown to lessen the chances of the previously incarcerated persons from reoffending and being reincarcerated; our neighborhoods are safer if those who have served time are in stable jobs. The District will also benefit economically, the unemployment rate will drop, and growing number of the previously incarcerated persons will become contributing, tax paying members of our community
- WMATA is one of the region’s largest employers and provide good paying jobs with benefits; their policy permanently excludes whole categories of job seeks and does not allow for the previously incarcerated to undergo individualized assessments based on their entire employment history and background
- WMATA’s recent policy adoption violates guidance issued last year by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that prohibits criminal records policies that are too broad and exclude otherwise qualified applicants
- WMATA’s policy applies equally to current employees, even those who have successfully worked for years without incidence, and
- We believe that people who have committed crimes in the past, pay their debt to society, and return from prison should have the right to return to mainstream society and move forward with their lives in positive ways,
the members of the Metro Washington Public Health Association Health Disparities Committee demand that WMATA reverse its discriminatory and harmful hiring policies that bar the hiring of previously incarcerated people. For the 8,000 people that will return from serving time in prisons or jails this year in DC and their families, there is an urgent need for jobs with a living wage. We demand that WMATA create more jobs and hire the previously incarcerated.