Revived and Discouraged: Evaluating Employment Barriers for Section 3 Residents With Criminal Records by Rebecca J. Walter, Michael Caudy, and James V. Ray explores the challenges Section 3-eligible residents with criminal records face when seeking employment. The researchers at the University of Texas at San Antonio focused on federal, state, and local barriers to employment in the city of San Antonio, Texas. Their findings indicate extensive barriers from state and local policies and actors, but not from HUD policies.
The Section 3 rule states that recipients of HUD housing and community development funding must provide “to the greatest extent feasible” job training, employment, and contracting opportunities for low and very low income residents. (See NLIHC’s Advocates’ Guide, http://bit.ly/1QZzXTz)
While Section 3 provisions place no restrictions or limits on economic opportunities for residents with criminal records, state and local employment guidelines often do. State laws can bar ex-offenders from obtaining certain types of jobs, getting licenses for certain occupations, and participating in training programs. Several states have laws prohibiting individuals with some types of felony convictions from employment in certain health service and security occupations. State licensing laws can even ban felons from plumbing, catering, and hair cutting jobs.
Local employers and policies posed barriers as well. For example, while the San Antonio Housing Authority (SAHA) does not require background checks of residents registering for Section 3, SAHA requires their contractors to perform background checks for new hires. This practice creates a barrier to employment of ex-offenders by SAHA contractors. Additionally, local employers were found to hold negative perceptions about individuals with criminal backgrounds. Local employers also worried about their legal liabilities under negligent hiring regulations if they hired someone with a criminal background. The study finds that HUD has been silent on Section 3 guidance to Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) and other agencies regarding participation by residents with a criminal background, despite these challenges and barriers to employment.
The authors recommend that HUD provide specific guidelines regarding ex-offenders in contractual and procurement policies of PHAs and other agencies. They also recommend HUD provide greater oversight of Section 3 activities. At the state level, they recommend changing current policies that bar ex-offenders from training programs in fields unrelated to their crime. They also recommend state incentives to employers for hiring ex-offenders, building on federal tax incentives that are currently provided. At the local level, they recommend education of employers regarding risk for recidivism and redemption, PHA and agency review of their own policies to identify barriers to employment, and better communication between Section 3 compliance officers and residents regarding the barriers they face in finding employment. The authors also recommend local partnerships to help individuals navigate the process of expunging or sealing their criminal records.
Revived and Discouraged: Evaluating Employment Barriers for Section 3 Residents With Criminal Records is available at: http://bit.ly/1mviszu