September 23, 2019

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A Second Chance: Removing Occupational Restrictions for Formerly Incarcerated Women

3/26/2018

We're sure you know the (disappointing) facts: the gender wage gap persists, there are countless factors that contribute to it, and the disparity is greater for women of color and mothers. But one fact that is often left out of this conversation is the impact of incarceration on the wage gap.

 

Women, especially women of color, are being incarcerated in record numbers. While there are many barriers a woman faces while she is in prison—having inadequate access to reproductive health care, being denied the ability to parent her children, facing an increased risk of sexual violence—the impact of incarceration extends far beyond the time she is imprisoned.

 

There are many unfair laws that permanently ban people with criminal records from working in a number of professions, no matter how old their convictions or how much they've changed their lives. Women are most affected by this restriction, as female-dominated fields like nursing, childcare, home health care, and teaching are regulated more than male-dominated occupations, such as construction.

 

We're challenging this practice by standing with Christal Fields, a childcare worker and mother.

 

Christal was successfully working in childcare when the Department of Early Learning conducted a background check and found a decades-old conviction for attempted robbery. The Department swiftly denied her the right to continue working in her chosen field. She went from thriving in a profession to being banned from it for life. All because of a conviction for which she had long ago paid the price.

 

Depriving people with convictions of the right to work hurts their families and our communities. And considering women with convictions are disproportionately poor women of color who already face employment discrimination, restrictions on what kind of work a formerly incarcerated woman can do only widens the wage gap and destabilizes communities.
 

We're standing with Christal and challenging unfair barriers to success for women who have been incarcerated. Because a criminal record should not be a life sentence of discrimination.

 

More

  • Read our amicus brief, submitted in coalition with Northwest Justice Project, Civil Survival, The Incarcerated Mothers Advocacy Project, the Public Defender Association, Surge, and SEIU 925

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