Seattle City Councilmember Bruce Harrell

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Archive for the 'Seattle Human Rights Commission' Category

Apr 20 2011

Transparent Discussion of Housing Discrimination Policy

A lot of controversy has stirred regarding the Seattle Human Rights Commission proposal to amend the City’s current anti-discrimination laws. They have proposed changing how an employer or landlord can use arrest or conviction records when making employment or housing decisions on applicants. They have proposed that the convictions be directly related to the job or, in the case of a rental unit, be a crime that involves safety issues or risk of substantial harm to others. Employers and landlords, many of whom already employ or house applicants with criminal records, have expressed concerns about the city eroding their ability to make rational decisions. After all, they would argue, isn’t that their fundamental right? To understand the problem that is being addressed, we should recognize that there are 409,945 people in King County with convictions on their record. Over 47 million Americans have a criminal record. Our country’s incarceration rate is nearly 8 times its historic average. Moreover, statistics clearly suggest there is huge disparity in arrest and conviction rates based on race and poverty. Data would also suggest that establishing good housing and employment conditions are the key factors to reduce recidivism. With this background, I hope to achieve legislation or establish policies that help people with arrest or criminal records find work and housing. Because employers and landlords are the very stakeholders who can help establish solutions to the issues, I believe their input, buy-in and support is critical to this process. As I have said publicly, this is “our” problem as a society and it will be up to us to help remedy the very same problems that historical policies of mass incarceration have produced. I am hopeful that any final legislation will not erode the safety concerns of the public or prohibit employers from making rational decisions about their workforce. To learn more about the proposal, follow this link:

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