The Montgomery County Office of Human Rights has launched “Second Chance,” a comprehensive public education campaign to educate the public and improve the understanding of the revised “Ban the Box” law (Montgomery County Code Section 27-72) and the revised “Housing Justice Act” law (Montgomery County Code Section 27-15A). Rights protected under the law cover employment, public accommodations, housing, and commercial real estate. In partnership with community-based organizations and advocates, the campaign centers on informing individuals with past criminal history and providers of employment and housing.
“This law gives people a chance to be assessed for employment and housing based on their qualifications and skills, free from the stigma that often comes with having a criminal record,” said County Executive Marc Elrich. “Marginalized populations face societal and economic barriers that make it difficult to access employment and housing, and these laws will help combat discrimination, and create a fair application process.”
Ban the Box, or the Fair Criminal Record Screening Standards Law, assists in the reintegration of people with criminal records into the workforce by removing barriers to employment and housing. The law helps to ensure that employers make hiring decisions based on relevant work qualifications without improperly considering a person’s criminal record.
The law also helps make sure housing providers make rental decisions based on financial ability and references rather than solely on an arrest or conviction record.
The Second Chance Ban the Box Public Education Campaign is a County initiative that will combat discrimination against the workforce with past criminal history by building awareness of the law enforcing a fair application process, their rights for a second chance at building a new life and County resources if discriminated against.
“The campaign is a major initiative to help remove the barriers of employment and housing to persons in the community who need a fresh start to building a new life, not just for themselves but also for their families,” said Office of Human Rights Director James Stowe.
According to the National Institute of Justice, one year after their release from prison, between 60 and 75 percent of ex-offenders remain unemployed. The National Low Income Housing Coalition reported that formerly incarcerated people are nearly 10 times more likely to be homeless. Blacks and Hispanics were more likely than Whites to be homeless (240 per 10,000, 191 per 10,000 and 148 per 10,000, respectively).
As part of the campaign, the Office of Human Rights created a microsite that features comprehensive information regarding the law, the rights of ex-offenders and what they need to do if discriminated against. It also has resources for employers, housing providers and community-based advocates.
Information and details about the campaign will be available on the Office of Human Rights website as more specifics become available. For more information call the Office of Human Rights at 240-777-8450.