Port Cov­ing­ton exec: We will hire ex-of­fend­ers

Baltimore Sun - - FROM PAGE ONE - Tom Ged­des, Baltimore The writer is the CEO of Plank In­dus­tries, the par­ent com­pany of the Port Cov­ing­ton de­vel­oper, Sag­amore De­vel­op­ment Co.

I would like to thank Vanessa Bright for her op-ed highlighting the chal­lenges faced by “re­turn­ing cit­i­zens” — those who have pre­vi­ously been in­car­cer­ated. (“Port Cov­ing­ton should com­mit to hir­ing ex-of­fend­ers,” Nov. 2.)

Ear­lier this year, I sat in the Roo­sevelt Room at the White House as one of a small group of busi­ness lead­ers from across in­dus­try sec­tors and from around the coun­try, all of whom had signed the pres­i­dent’s “Fair Chance Busi­ness Pledge.” This pledge states that we will do ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to smooth the path to em­ploy­ment for re­turn­ing cit­i­zens, many of whom are non­vi­o­lent and fully rein­te­grated into so­ci­ety and their fam­i­lies but chron­i­cally un­em­ployed due to the struc­tural bar­ri­ers tra­di­tion­ally in­her­ent in the hir­ing process.

This sum­mer, I par­tic­i­pated in a panel con­vened by Rep. Eli­jah Cum­mings to dis­cuss the documentary “The Re­turn,” which tells the story of formerly in­car­cer­ated men re­turn­ing to so­ci­ety after their ex­or­bi­tant “three-strikes” sen­tences for mi­nor crimes were over­turned. Both of these ex­pe­ri­ences, as well as my con­ver­sa­tions across Baltimore’s com­mu­ni­ties, have high­lighted for me the need for em­ploy­ers to demon­strate real lead­er­ship on this is­sue.

Some of the so­lu­tions are sim­ple: re­move any re­quire­ment to iden­tify crim­i­nal his­tory un­til a job of­fer has al­ready been made, and re­strict any in­for­ma­tion about such his­tory to a small group within the HR of­fice. These prac­tices work well in an of­fice set­ting and can re­move ob­sta­cles for qual­i­fied ap­pli­cants.

Other so­lu­tions are struc­tural and gen­er­a­tional in na­ture, and re­quire a mul­ti­fac­eted ap­proach at the pol­icy level, in the work of non­profit providers and gov­ern­ment en­ti­ties as­sist­ing with re-en­try, and through the ac­tions of em­ploy­ers. Through our new work­force de­vel­op­ment pro­gram and through our hir­ing prac­tices, it is our in­ten­tion in Port Cov­ing­ton to be ag­gres­sive in hir­ing a di­verse, lo­cal work­force, in­clud­ing re­turn­ing cit­i­zens. Ms. Bright can rest as­sured that our guid­ing prin­ci­ple is as fol­lows — that any­one who is ready and will­ing to work can have a real and fair chance to find a job, a ca­reer, an op­por­tu­nity, a fu­ture.

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