Did you know that a person with a felony is prevented from obtaining a number occupational licenses, no matter how much they have changed their lives?
All across the nation, state and local lawmakers are fighting to make reentry possible for people with criminal records. Legal Voice is proud to join that fight! Last month, we filed an amicus brief on behalf of Christal Fields, a childcare worker and mother.
Christal is fighting an uphill battle as a 30-year-old conviction for robbery still prevents her from working with children. At the time of her conviction, Christal was struggling with an addiction to drugs, living without housing, and suffering from the effects of domestic violence. Today, she is clean and sober, and volunteers with the Seattle Police Department. But the Department of Early Learning refuses to even accept evidence that she is not the same person she was three decades ago.
When someone has worked hard to turn their life around, a criminal background should not hold them back from making a living. Yet this continues to be a reality for many people, especially women: female dominated fields such as nursing, childcare, home health care, and teaching are regulated more than male dominated occupations, such as construction.
Considering that women who are convicted of felonies are disproportionately poor, undereducated, and black, these laws have the effect of destabilizing already vulnerable communities of women. In Washington, black women only make 61 cents to every dollar made by a man, and black women who have been incarcerated make only 30 cents to every dollar made by a man without a criminal record. Restrictions on what kind of work a formerly incarcerated woman can do only exacerbates this disparity.
We want the Department of Early Learning to put a stop to never-ending punishment and give women like Christal the chance to pursue a meaningful career.