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This episode, originally recorded as a DEI Community Call, features Susan Mason, Teresa Hodge and former NFL player Jordan Babineaux, the managing partners of the Bank on 100 Million Network as they discuss how corporations operationalize their DEI commitments to hiring FIT (formerly incarcerated talent). Discover the startling statistics about overcriminalization, why the current system continues to punish and marginalize formerly incarcerated talent, and how that is negatively impacting not just that talent, but DEI and talent strategies for organizations.

Listen in now, or read on for the transcript of our conversation:

Susan Mason: Very often what happens is at the C-suite level companies are saying, we have a commitment to black lives. We have a commitment to second chances. We have a commitment to DEI. And what invariably can happen is when you get down into general counsel and risk management and HR, there’s a big time out. Hey, wait a minute. What about safety and maintaining safe and productive workspaces? What about the contracts that we have with maybe the DOD or the army or with a tech company? What about security? What do we do then? Or there might be somebody that’s in the center of a company that’s really committed to DEI, that’s committed to second chances, that says, “Hey, I want to make some changes in this company.” And they run it up the ladder and then find out it’s hard stop, we can’t do that because of, well, we’re in a sector that’s heavily regulated, or we can’t hire murderers. So we hear this all the time.

Doug Foresta: Everyone has a diversity story, even those you don’t expect. Welcome to The Will to Change with Jennifer Brown. Get ready to hear from leading CEOs, bestselling authors and entrepreneurs, as we uncover their true stories of diversity and inclusion. And now here’s your host, Jennifer Brown.

Doug Foresta: Hello, and welcome back to The Will to Change. This is Doug Foresta, and of course, I’m here with Jennifer Brown. And this episode is another DEI community call with Susan Mason, Teresa Hodge and former NFL player Jordan Babineaux, the managing partners of the Bank on 100 million Network, sharing about how corporations operationalize their DEI commitments to hiring formerly incarcerated talent or as they call it FIT. And Jennifer people should remember, Susan of course has been on the podcast before. And we were talking about how we originally started tackling this subject, or you originally started tackling it back in episode 80. All the way back in 2019.

Jennifer Brown: 2019. Yes. We’re always looking under rocks for talent and this one doesn’t even require looking under a rock because it’s a massive number of Americans when we look at the statistics. Today one in three Americans is living with an arrest or a conviction record, and that number is estimated to reach 100 million by 2030, hence the bank on 100 million pledge, which they are co co-partners in creating. And essentially, we’ve been looking at this issue, Doug, because it impacts, there’s so many reasons, obvious reasons, I think. But there’s so many difficulties baked into our recruitment processes that are screening out qualified candidates, who are more than ready and willing to join companies and work extremely hard. In fact, in this episode, you’ll hear discussion about what kind of employees the formerly incarcerated make. Loyal, steadfast. Susan explains her own job seeking process.

Jennifer Brown: Teresa goes into her job seeking process. Teresa tells a harrowing story about going through a whole job application and then hitting that point in the application where you have to indicate if you have been formerly incarcerated and she checked the box and the whole screen went blank, and the entire application shut down.

Doug Foresta: Oh my gosh.

Jennifer Brown: Yeah. And she just sat back. And that was just such a powerful moment to visualize and imagine the frustration over and over and over again, because this issue has not been addressed. And there’s so many reasons that it needs to be addressed and it should be addressed because this is a giant talent pool, it will make up one out of every two job seekers in the coming years. And companies still, I think haven’t gotten their heads around… You mentioned Margie Johnson back at Checkr from episode 90 I think it was Doug?

Doug Foresta: Episode 80.

Jennifer Brown: Oh episode 80 from 2019. But they actually have built an AI that helps companies to facilitate people with criminal backgrounds through the process. So an AI basically handles or takes care of or addresses and does the analysis, and helps facilitate people moving through the process, rather than getting by these very outdated HR processes. And so that was when I originally became really interested in this, was thinking about human biases, but also the biases in the systems that these humans have built. And then why can we not build a better system? That acknowledge that for many, many with a criminal background history, that was years and years in their past, but that they are still, as Susan Mason says all the time, still doing time, still paying the price. Even though they paid the price that they were expected to pay and have moved on, the job market has not in the way that they’re seen as candidates.

Jennifer Brown: So this Bank on 100 million pledge, the pledge is one of several very concrete actions that the group suggests people take. And Jordan and Theresa are just incredible people. Teresa was incarcerated herself and her story is unbelievable, founding a company, taking it public and having to step down from the leadership of the company because of regulations. And then Jordan’s story a former pro NFL player entrepreneur, wanted to hire someone thought that person would be incredibly talented at the role and that person having to admit about their conviction history, and Jordan embarking on that journey as an employer to learn more about how he could not just hire this person, he wanted to hire, but address the systemic problems. As we always talk about Doug on The Will to Change, it’s the individual interventions, but then those of us with power and influence, and that means big employers, we’re the ones that have to address the systemic issues that are causing this problem, that is so deeply unfair and so tragic to so many talented people.

Jennifer Brown: And by the way, this group that is formerly incarcerated, it is tremendously diverse. So it also sparks this thought for me of, who is the pipeline that we’re always talking about not… whatever. I’m not talking about them being hard to find or us being hard to find, but those are the wording wordings that are used about the difficulty of hiring talent demographics that reflect our world. And you look at this 100 million and they’re right in front of us, and we’re screening them out and it’s not right. So I hope everybody that listens to this brings Susan and Jordan or Teresa, any combination [there’re 00:07:14] of to talk to our employers, to talk to our HR teams, to really become an advocate for this talent demographic. And be ready for the biases and the stereotypes, many of which are not rooted in truth, but at least a call like this will equip us with some of the barriers that we’re going to face in our colleagues and in our processes, as we bring this topic up and as we sponsor and champion it to move forward.

Jennifer Brown: But I want everybody to know that these folks are so happy to be contacted, especially Susan. She is the most hardworking person I know. So look her up, Susan Mason, What’s Next Washington, she’s in Washington state, but she just knows what’s happening in the space so deeply. And I just think that this is a conversation whose time has come. So enjoy this community call.

Susan Mason: Thank you everybody for coming today. I’m really excited to talk to you. I’m really excited to introduce my partners in a new initiative called the Bank on 100 million Campaign. But first I’ll tell you a little bit about myself. I am the formerly incarcerated executive director and co-founder of What’s next Washington. I was released from federal prison in 2003, and I am impacted by that conviction to this day. I did a podcast with Jennifer it’s episode 159, if you want to learn a little bit more about me and my story and the work I’m doing. But today I’m here to bring a couple people along. I’ve done a lot of work in workforce development in Washington state, and that work has expanded exponentially and invariably it’s going to move national. And I thought, “Okay, so how am I going to take this work national?”

Susan Mason: I can’t. I can’t do it by myself. So what I’ve done is I’ve partnered with Teresa and with Jordan to think about strategies we could use to help you as DEI directors and VPs to increase your ability to recruit, hire, and retain people with conviction histories, especially those that have been to prison, or what we call Formerly Incarcerated Talent FIT. And the reason that we think that we need to do that is because we’re currently… there’s over 70 million people in this nation that have a conviction history. And by 2030, and this is according to the department of justice, by 2030, there will be 100 million. That’s 100 million people with a conviction or an arrest record. So if we take out the under eighteens and the over 60 fives, that’s one in two working age adults. And if your sector does not hire, if you are restricted by regulatory or licensing barriers, if you have internal policies that are too strict and too stringent, and if you do not have a strategy yourself, how are you going to vet the one in two people that walk into your door?

Susan Mason: So a lot of times we think that people with conviction histories or formerly incarcerated talent are low skill, low wage workers and that’s just not the case. We exist on a spectrum like everybody else, we have been marginalized for far too long. I think we can agree that we really like to marginalize people in this nation. We started with women when they entered the workplace, and then we marginalized LGBTQI folks. And of course, black brown and native folks, we like to do that. And this is a population we’ve been marginalizing too long. So we want to come out of the closet ourselves and say, “Hey, I’m formerly incarcerated and I’m not ashamed of it. I’ve moved on like millions of others. How are you going to vet me so that I can prove that I’m ready for an opportunity and not be re-convicted by HR and other folks when I’m presenting for work?”

Susan Mason: So I will also say this, I do not believe that you can meet your DEI goals without having a strategy to vet talent with conviction histories. So that’s enough from me. I’m going to bring in Teresa and Jordan, I’d like them to share a little bit about themselves. I’d like you to tell a little bit about your story, and then what brought you into this partnership, between you and I, and this Bank on 100 million Campaign?

Teresa Hodge: [inaudible 00:11:29], Jordan? I know you were having some camera situation. So do you want to go first Jordan while I…

Jordan Babineaux: Oh, ladies first.

Teresa Hodge: Okay. All right. So my name is Teresa Hodge and I am the co-founder of R3 Score technologies, also the co-founder and current president and CEO of Mission Launch a national non-profit that helps individuals who have arrest or conviction records, who are experiencing a difficult time accessing employment and turn to entrepreneurship out of necessity. And so we help those individuals. And for us we have redefined entrepreneurship, doesn’t mean that you have to go build a tech company that is generating $5 billion, but it might mean that you just cut enough lawns to take care of and feed you and your family. And so we have provided some wraparound services.

Teresa Hodge: And so what I learned really quickly was, we could teach people entrepreneurship, quite frankly, people came to us with great entrepreneurial skill sets, but we could not get them to access the growth capital that they needed to be able to move forward. Which meant not only were we locking people out of work in one way, the traditional workforce, we were locking them out of the opportunity to build a business and to take care of themselves. And so that’s when I left our non-profit to go form R3 Score Technologies. And R3 Score Technologies is a more contextualized criminal background check. What we know is many of the employers and HR professionals are running background checks. And when you run a criminal background check, what we know is you’re going to come across information that you don’t know how to interpret.

Teresa Hodge: And as a result of that, it’s just going to be so much easier for you to say no, and to turn down qualified candidates simply because of a past mistake. And in many cases, a past mistake that they’ve already paid for with time, and now they’re unable and they’re locked out. So I am one, super excited to be here. Will go into a little bit more information, but I also served a 70 month federal prison sentence, a very long prison sentence. And I went to prison a little bit later in life, and what I knew was I could survive prison. I took really good skillsets into prison. As a matter of fact, once upon a time I ran an HR department. But what I knew was coming home it was going to be difficult. I didn’t realize how difficult it was going to be. So I dedicated while in prison, my life for the rest of my life to create solutions that would help people. And some of those solutions, we’ll talk about a little bit later.

Jordan Babineaux: Great. Well, thanks Theresa. Thanks for sharing. Hey everyone, thanks for being on the call. Certainly appreciate your time to jump on and share ideas. And from what I’ve been told that this is a very enlightened group in terms of being open to new ideas and sharing new concepts, and certainly understanding the challenges that’s ahead of all of us as business owners, as leaders and organizations, and as corporations, that’s continuing to trying to navigate these uncertain times and dealing with the pandemic and now being able to tackle such a heavy topic such as formerly incarcerated and what that looks for second chance employment. So thanks for being open. This is an opportunity for us all, to provoke our own learning and challenge our own biases around this topic.

Jordan Babineaux: And I’ve had my own share and experience by doing so, having encountered someone who’s formerly incarcerated when I was looking to hire in my small business. The story I’ll share later on, but a little bit about me. So I spent nearly a decade in the NFL playing professional football for the Seahawks and the Tennessee Titans, recently retired. I’ll say recently, wow, it’s almost been a decade. 2000 I guess 12 was my last season. Yeah. Wow. Time flies. That’s been nine years since I’ve pivoted away from the NFL. Since then I’ve transitioned into sports broadcasting, entrepreneurship and most recently just launched and self-published my new book, Pivot to Win in Life, Sports and in Business. And went back to school to complete my MBA program at Seattle University.

Jordan Babineaux: That’s when as part of the curriculum of the Seattle U adjust with community, I have this holistic approach to the person and their mission to attack a social justice project. As part of our social justice project, it was specifically around hiring a second chance… or creating second chance employment opportunities because of my experience with this gentleman that I had, that I wanted to hire. That’s when I met Sue at What’s Next Washington, this was, I don’t know, maybe two years ago now. And when I began to understand all of the barriers associated with not just getting employment, but just with re-entry in general. Housing, financial, education and it really hit me in a way where, what can I do as an employer? I was limited and restricted by some of those licensing and the barriers that Sue mentioned earlier.

Jordan Babineaux: But as a person, I was like, “Well, there’s something I can do.” Many people know I’m a great community ambassador. I believe in building the community with my own hands, not just with money. Oftentimes donating myself and being present in the community to create impact. So that’s when the work began with Sue. Sue then asked me to join this executive council to be a part of a national board, that’s bringing about change throughout our nation. And that’s when I had a chance to meet Teresa. But Sue has been so diligent in talking about Teresa and all the work that she’s done. It’s like, “Well, where is this Teresa person? I definitely want to meet her.” And so that’s how the three of us all got connected and started this work collectively.

Jordan Babineaux: Because individually we were each moving the needle respectively in our own areas, in our own communities and through our own networks. And now coming together as a mighty force I think is going to create and open new opportunities for the three of us, But also provide resources and support for people like each of you who have interest in wanting to grow your business, grow your talent pool and use these resources in your HR hiring practices. So thanks for being here.

Susan Mason: That’s great. Thanks guys. So I want to center us in the Bank on 100 million Campaign and here’s what’s happening out in the ether. I get calls, Teresa gets calls, Jordan’s in the community and understands that, very often, what happens is at the C-suite level companies are saying, we have a commitment to black lives. We have a commitment to second chances. We have a commitment to DEI, and what invariably can happen is when you get down in to general counsel and risk management and HR, there’s a big time out, Hey, wait a minute. What about safety and maintaining safe and productive workspaces? What about the contracts that we have with maybe the DOD or the army, or with a tech company? What about security? What do we do then?

Susan Mason: And there might be somebody that’s in the center of a company that’s really committed to DEI, that’s committed to second chances that says, “Hey, I want to make some changes in this company.” And they run it up the ladder and then find out it’s hard stop. We can’t do that because of, well, we’re in a sector that’s heavily regulated, or we can’t hire murderers. So we hear this all the time. So we know that unless, and until you have the tools that you need, the strategies that you need, if you’re able to develop a roadmap for you and your company, all of the good will in the world isn’t going to change in process. So we came up with this Bank on 100 million Campaign. We’d like you to pledge, to partner and to pilot. And Teresa’s going to tell you a little bit more about how to do that.

Teresa Hodge: So we’ll give this out along the way, but one of the things you could do is go to bankon100million.com, made it pretty simple, bankon10million.com so that it won’t be hard to find. But again, you can’t solve these problems in silo. What we know is community is important and the opportunity for you to come and to be able to talk about the policies that are maybe governing your industry. To talk about the practices that you have internally, and the internal policies that’s prohibiting you from making or accessing qualified talent. And what you can do is, as Susan said, free of charge, just take a pledge. Put your logo out and say, “We as a corporation are interested in being inclusive and making sure that everyone, all Americans have an opportunity to work and earn a living.”

Teresa Hodge: The next thing is there’s opportunity to partner. We have some strategies, boiler plate in line, but likewise, we are open to making sure that we create a partnership that makes sense for you and your corporation. And then last, we’re interested in you piloting. We have some brand new tools, new as in they’re just hitting the market, they have been designed with formerly incarcerated talent at the table. One of those tools is the R3 Score. It’s the company that I co-founded and was the CEO of up until recently. And that is a tool that allows you to run a criminal background check. We do not hide the fact that a person has a criminal history, but what we do is provide you with the context you need to make a better decision. We believe context is important.

Teresa Hodge: For example, if you run a background check and you discover that 20 years ago, a person had a conviction history, you don’t want to make a decision on that person of who they were 20 years ago. And if we’re all honest, none of us want to be judged by either one, our worst mistake or who we were 20 years ago. And so the opportunity is for you to be able to assess the candidate in real time. We take a holistic examination of that individual by way of this tool. We look at yes, the criminal history, the conduct, but we also take a deeper dive into the capacity. Who are they? Is there military history? What is their work history has been like and so forth? And then the part that I really like about this tool is the area that I call continuity of choice. And it’s, we use data to determine how this person is trending towards stability and readiness.

Teresa Hodge: And so we’re really excited about that. We provide a score so that not only you can see the criminal history, but on a scale of one to 10, 10 being the more severe, letting you know from a public safety perspective, where does this person fall on the spectrum according to research? And then also we offer a second score, 300 [inaudible 00:23:10] similar to a credit score, to let you know again, this person is about a 650, they’re about a 750, and most of us understand our credit. So it gives you a good way of looking at that.

Teresa Hodge: The other tool that’s hot off the press is the tool that Susan and her group created, which is the Get FIT Guide. Because what we know is just having an R3 Score is not enough. What you’re going to need is… that you’re going to have questions about a particular person, if the person’s on probation. There’s just so many nuances when it comes to this. I think one of the best myth that I hope to bust, if nothing else, just this one, there is not a one size fit all approach to hiring 70 million people. We’re not all the same. And so there is some nuance. And so between the Get FIT Guide and also R3 Score and some other tools that will be developed, we just want to equip you with more resources so that you can be competitive in your industry.

Jordan Babineaux: So what I was sharing earlier and alluded to is the fact that, a few years ago as part of wanting to hire someone for a position in my transportation company I had an ad or I had a gentleman walk in who I thought was well qualified. And he was upbeat, he was spiritual, wore a big smile and possessed all of, what I thought were personable skills to hold a conversation and be able to safely provide transportation for our passengers. And so towards the end of the interview, he leaned in and said, there’s something I want to share with you. And it’s never a good… never, I’ll say anything really good, but he’s like, oh boy, okay., tell me what’s going on?

Jordan Babineaux: And he began to tell me that the early ’90s, mid ’90s I believe, nearly 25 years ago, he served time in prison, he was convicted. And here I am as a young business owner and a startup company. And I was like, “Oh boy. Here’s something that I hadn’t had to deal with before.” So any of our small business owners out there who wear all the hats of HR director and marketing director, operations and decision making, even sometimes legal, even though there’s a lot of consulting in that, will be like, “Well, here’s a learning opportunity for me.” But I didn’t know what that meant. And what I did know was that I needed to take a beat and pause on it, so I could think and reflect on what that meant the next step was.

Jordan Babineaux: In my mind, I wanted to hire him and then certainly Jordan, the person is like, “Oh yeah, well, there’s something I want to do for you.” But I thought two things. One, here’s another black man that was a part of the criminal justice system, and two, how can I help? And I think that probably what was more empowering with hearing him share his story, which Sue and Teresa would tell you, to be able to share your story and tell your story to someone who you know is judging you, and if you getting a job is dependent upon how they feel or what restrictions they have, that’s an act of courage.

Jordan Babineaux: So I was grateful that he even decided to share that with me. But I was paused and I was taken aback from it. So began to do some research and found out that I couldn’t hire him because I had government contracts and that restricted me from doing so. But that was the company’s position, but I wanted to think about the things that I could do as a person and what kind of relationship equity I had within my network that I could help maybe alleviate some of the pain points that he’s been having with trying to find sustainable employment. So as I mentioned, the over 50,000 lateral consequences that’s associated with someone who has a conviction history, over 20,000 of them resided around employment.

Jordan Babineaux: That’s insane. And so that’s what birth the social justice project that came about through my MBA work and where I began to work with Sue. And I shared that to say is that, it’s been a journey for me in learning and educating myself on all of the things that restricts people with conviction histories from a successful re-entry into the community. And it’s not just employment, it’s financing, it’s banking, it’s housing. Some people can’t even get a driver’s license after they have spent time in federal prison. So I’m just blown away by it, but now the fact that I know so much about it, it’s like, “Okay, well, what are you going to do?” And I think maybe that’s the question for all of us today on this call is that, while we’re getting this, we’re increasing our own awareness and we’re becoming more in tune to what a lot of the restrictions around people with conviction histories. What are you going to do about it?

Jordan Babineaux: And certainly your company may be restricted, and maybe this is you as who may not have the complete or in decision making power, but internally you can manage up and champion a cause that brings about change within your organization. And if you are someone who has the decision making power, what are you going do about it? How do we change and create what I call a rehabilitation process, not just in the person having served their time, but successfully re-entering back into the community? And I think we as a community have in some regard, a lot of the responsibility, and would say a lot of the responsibility. We have some of the responsibility to ensure that our American citizens reintegrate back into society and become contributors into the economy.

Jordan Babineaux: Sue has a job. She pays taxes, Teresa pays taxes. They pay rent, they buy groceries they’re contributors to other companies, they’re contributors to the economy. So how can we support that without creating this cycle of recidivism, that will really provoke these new behaviors or these change behaviors into old ways of thinking that felt like all about survival at the time? So that was my story. A lot of what I think happened for me personally, is that I had a chance to connect with someone, on a person to person level. And rather than carrying the stigma or this fear of formerly incarcerated, that this person is this monster, and it’s not the case.

Jordan Babineaux: They’re humans, they have emotions, they have families, they have desires to create new lives for themselves. And how can we help support that in a way that they earn it? Here’s the other thing, that they’re willing to earn it. They don’t want handouts. They’ll go to work and they’ll be on time and they’ll be great employees and contributors to society. So I think that’s our challenge today. So as we go about listening to the conversations, or if you guys have questions and interests around ways to create a safe workplace environment, we’re happy to dive into that as we go deeper into the conversation. Thanks, Sue. [crosstalk 00:31:34].

Teresa Hodge: So can I jump in real quick for a second and say something about what Jordan just said?

Susan Mason: Yeah.

Teresa Hodge: Okay. So what really stuck at me… One, I know Jordan we’ve had this conversation, but as he was talking, what really stuck out at me, was the importance and the need for corporations and people in leadership to have the courage to really take the next step. It would’ve been so easy for him to just decide, “Well, this isn’t easy.” But he put time in to bring this person on board. And when we think of rehabilitation, I really believe that the onus is on all of us as a society. That people who have conviction histories, especially if they serve time, most of us are rehabilitated. The process that time did its job.

Susan Mason: Yes.

Teresa Hodge: What needs to be rehabilitated at this moment, it feels more like is society at large. That when we think of the fact that almost 40% of the people who come home from prison, go back to prison. What I know for a fact is prison life is no way of a life. And so therefore it’s an indictment, not on that person, it’s an indictment on society. That we’re making it too challenging for people to come home and be productive. There is not one person who’s sitting on their bunk in prison saying, “Oh, I can’t wait to leave here just to come back.” That is not the conversation, those are not the narratives that are taking place. But when we think of 50,000 known barriers to accessing employment, accessing housing, accessing higher education, accessing finance, in many cases, people are unable to open up bank accounts. What we’re saying is, we are going to perpetually lock you out of all types of opportunities. And it’s on all of us to make these changes.

Susan Mason: Thanks, Teresa. So I want to ground us in a couple of things. One is that, that of the 40% of people that go back to prison every year, 90% of them are unemployed. If you give a person a living wage job within three to six months after they’re released the re-offense rate is somewhere around 8%, the odds of them going back to prison is about 8%. Employment matters. I also want to tell you this, that of this 70 million people with a conviction history, 63 million have no contact with the criminal legal system anymore. So the majority are done and have moved on. And one final thing that I want you to understand, a lot of you may be thinking, “Well, I’m not going to run into to this population because the jobs that I’m offering are executive level jobs, or upper management or mid-level management.” And I’m here to tell you that that’s not true.

Susan Mason: So there are the portion of the 70 million that are more destabilized, that are more entry level, that sort of stuff, but the majority of us are not, we’ve moved on. The odds of you interviewing somebody in your company who was recently released within one year are infinitesimal. The reason why is because there are 675,000 people released every year from prison, so the odds of you interviewing one of those people’s pretty small, but there are 70 million of us with a conviction history. So what’s invariably happening is that, unintentionally HR departments are re-convicting people. So you get out, you finally find yourself a job, and it takes a long time. And maybe you want to move up, maybe you want to move to another county, maybe to another state, maybe you’ve got an education and want to go into your field.

Susan Mason: You’ve been working for six years and you present yourself to an HR department. And they… This is one of the reasons I’m not a fan of band the box. You go through all of these interviews over and over and over, you get the offer you’re hired, “Hey, I’ve got a background check.” They pull it and you’re done. It didn’t matter what my resume said, it didn’t matter that I had a degree, it didn’t matter that I had experience all ready. It didn’t matter that I’d already been working for a company. What mattered was what you saw on that background check, without any training in the law, without any training in what that means, and without any really further review of me and who I am. That contextualization that we’re talking out, what are the markers of stability? I have forgeries in my background, I was a drug addict and I stole people’s mail. I was a hot mess y’all, wasn’t even good at it, which is why I ended up in prison.

Susan Mason: And so if you looked at my background check, you might be afraid. And the thing is, I’ve been out for 18 years and this is what we’re talking about. Do we have a bunch of criminals in the United States or have we over-criminalized and over-incarcerated? Because I tell you what I needed was treatment, not prison, but I got prison. And so now when I present, this is Sue Mason, I am capable and I am responsible and I am completely trustworthy. But if you seed my background check, you would want to negate that. And so what are the tools and the strategies that you need so that you can overcome this when that person’s sitting right in front of you? Because I guarantee you, we’re not all prepared for entry level jobs.

Susan Mason: Most of us are career ready, career capable, already been out for a long time and are getting denied over and over and over. And we’re over time. And so we’re going to open it up for questions. I’m excited, I see a lot in the chat. I touched a little bit on Band The Box. I know a lot of people love it, I’m not a big fan. It’s a lot of time going through interviews, 5, 6, 7 weeks to be offered a job, you beat out all the other candidates, they pull your background check and you rescinded. It happened to me over and over, it’s devastating. I think there’s a better tool, I think there’s a better set of strategies and we have them. Let’s see, what else? There’s some… Let’s see. Here’s a question for the panel.

Susan Mason: So we are prevented by our Oklahoma State Department of Health and Human Services from hiring anyone with a criminal conviction of any kind and at any time in the past. So what do you recommend from an advocacy lens, so we could pursue this untapped pool of talent?

Susan Mason: Well, first I want to say that, that started after 9/11. That, that didn’t use to be the case. That after 9/11, we exploded the books with about 40,000 regulatory licensing and laws and policies that impact hiring people with conviction histories. And none of them were based on data and we should not have an outright ban on hiring. And that, that type of thing is going to have to be challenged through legislation. Teresa or Jordan, you want to answer any of that?

Teresa Hodge: Well, one thing I will say is, we can’t Trump state laws. So if the state and or is preventing you from hiring, that’s unfortunate. What I do know is in the HR space, Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, Maryland has done a lot of good research about bringing people with conviction histories in. What I would say to you, if this is something that is of interest to you, then one community. That’s the reason why you need to be a part of the pilot. The pilot, one of the things that we’re going to be doing is going over industries and making sure that we really understand and are interpreting the laws the right way, and looking for some openings. And there’s no one better than your peers who’ve already done this, who can come into community with you and tell you of some of the things that they’ve done.

Teresa Hodge: And then over time, hopefully we’ll be able to chip away at some of these archaic laws that still exist, that are locking people out. But overnight, we don’t have the miracle wand in some of the states, but what I will tell you is things are changing. And what you want to do is be a part of the communities that are making and driving the change, so that when the laws change in your area, you are well positioned to access this talent.

Susan Mason: I agree with that. We do have strategies to combat that. Jordan, you want to add anything?

Jordan Babineaux: Yeah, I’ll just add the fact that, I know we’re speaking a lot about second chance employment opportunities, but there’s so many of barriers associated with this population and domain. That in order to really re-enter back into society in a way that’s productive and sustainable, it’s going to take advocates and champions and allies in every major area. And it’s housing, it’s employment, it’s in finance, it’s in education. And I’ll just share with the group who may or may not know, and I’m not sure where Oklahoma is on the spectrum but Washington just became, I think the 21st state that allowed voting rights for formerly incarcerated, the law passed. And the reason that it’s such a huge deal and celebration and great accomplishment, is because I think there’s some decency in this greater aura of humanity for people with conviction issues.

Jordan Babineaux: And I’ll share this because this law, I believe, and Sue you can correct me if I’m wrong, was produced by Tara Simmons, who has a conviction history. And she just became a state representative. I think it’s stories like that, that shows the power of people with conviction histories still have resilience, they still have goals and things that they want to accomplish. And I think it’s up to us to continue to create these portal of opportunities. And I think there’s more than just one way of doing it. And certainly as we’re talking about employment, because employment is a key part of this rehabilitation process and this re-entry process for society that helps create this reduce recidivism, to create this I would say runway for success, after serving time. I just wanted to add that as well, Sue, and I’m not sure, I believe it was Oklahoma that she mentioned that they’re restricted by state law to do so. So I just wanted to mention that.

Susan Mason: Thank you. Yeah. And I think what we’re talking about here is that there needs to be multiple strategies. We are marching now to 100 million people convicted of a crime, having an arrest or conviction record in this nation. And I want to be clear that not everybody goes to prisoner or jail, but everybody’s locked out of opportunity. Literally you could have been convicted of a theft three at 19 and paid a fine and did six months of probation and never become a nurse. You can’t even go to college to get a degree in energy… couldn’t work in the energy sector. That doesn’t make sense to us. What we’re really doing is we’re over punishing, and then we’re locking people out of our five economic pillars. Employment, housing, education, entrepreneurship, and banking, and how are we supposed to make it?

Susan Mason: And here’s what I’m telling you is that 63 million of us have, and the other seven million are working on it. They’re striving, maybe they’re recently released. But I really want to expand your idea of who people are with conviction history. We are your neighbors. Your kids and our kids play together, we are working alongside you. Many of us are quiet, we don’t want to talk about it because there’s so much impact and stigma, and my goodness, we can lose our jobs. Say your conviction history is over seven years old, and this company hired you, and then they find out that you’ve been to prison. I’ve seen people run out of their organizations. I’ve seen people had investigations done on them, when they didn’t even have to disclose.

Susan Mason: So we’re talking about a massive problem that we think that corporations want to solve. We are directly impacted by that problem. And by getting into community together and saying, “Okay, what’s going on at your organization? What are the barriers? Is it at risk management? Is it the C-suite level? Are you running into security issues? Do you have a HR policy or is it regulatory and licensing?” What’s the roadmap for you? What’s the roadmap for your sector? And I don’t know of anybody else that’s offering that right now.

Teresa Hodge: Susan and I have been on the opposite end of this. We are both advocates. You like to say I’m an advocate, but she’s one as well. And so we’ve been out here, we’ve been doing the work. Today, we’re not on that side. We are on the side of trying to… we’re advocating a little bit differently. The laws need to be changed, there are amazing organizations out there that are changing the laws. What we’re trying to do is pipeline folks to opportunities that are qualified to help you grow in your businesses.

Jennifer Brown: Hi, this is Jennifer. Did you know that we offer a full transcript of every podcast episode on my website, over at jenniferbrownspeaks.com. You can also subscribe so that you get notified every time a new episode goes live. Head over there now to read my latest thoughts on diversity, inclusion and the future of work. And discover how we can all be champions of change by bringing our collective voices together and standing up for ourselves and each other.

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