OAKLAND (KCBS) – They’re being called the “hard to employ” – the former convicts who are trying to go back to work.

The unemployment rate for African American and Latino ex-cons is considered rampant in the Bay Area. Members of an interfaith community in the East Bay are trying to change that.

The Rev. Michael Wallace of Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church said medium to large employers in Oakland, Richmond and Berkeley are being targeted.

“We’re asking that 50% of all new jobs that come in be local hires, and that 25% of those jobs be allocated for individuals who are formerly incarcerated or otherwise disadvantaged,” he explained.

A key part of the strategy is encouraging the so-called “ban the box” approach to hiring, which means employers don’t ask applicants to check the box indicating whether they’ve ever been incarcerated.

“Remove the box on the job application that raises the question of whether or not you’ve had a criminal conviction,” Wallace appealed to employers.

KCBS’ Tim Ryan Reports:

Former felons who have benefited from forgiving employers are joining in the call for hiring of ex-cons.

“Without that first opportunity years ago…that person would never be here today. That person is me,” said once-imprisoned and now-employed Theresa Anderson-Downs. “Don’t just look at people and say ‘you’re no good anymore because you made a mistake. Because you went to jail.'”

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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