Leaders from 42 foundations announced today that they have “banned the box” by adopting fair chance hiring policies or ensuring that questions about criminal convictions do not appear on applications for employment with their foundations. They also issued a challenge to all U.S. philanthropic institutions to follow suit and eliminate barriers to employment for people with arrest and conviction records. The foundations are members and allies of the Executives’ Alliance for Boys and Men of Color—a philanthropic network committed to improving outcomes for boys and men of color, their families, and their communities.

The Alliance’s actions support a movement created by formerly incarcerated people over a decade ago that has since spread to 21 states and over 100 localities. This philanthropic call to action also follows positive developments in the private sector, with employers such as Starbucks, Facebook, and Target leading the way. Most recently, President Obama took action to move toward banning the box in the federal government’s hiring process. Using the power of public policy and mobilizing the private sector are pillars of the President’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative and its focus on providing second chances. It is also at the heart of the Alliance’s focus on eliminating systemic and structural barriers to opportunity. The need for action is urgent. Over 70 million Americans have arrest or conviction records that can show up in background checks, reducing the likelihood of a callback interview for an entry-level job by 50 percent. This takes a particularly heavy toll on communities of color, especially men of color who are disproportionately impacted by mass incarceration.

“While the need for criminal justice reform is broadly agreed upon across the country and across political lines, too little is being done on a practical level to provide meaningful opportunities to people who have been incarcerated,” said Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation. “By establishing a new benchmark for what we are capable of as a society and modifying our own practices, we pursue together a system of justice of which we can be proud.”

Tim Silard, President of the Rosenberg Foundation, added, “It is time to end the pervasive discrimination against people with past criminal records. The era of mass incarceration and the war on drugs have done severe damage to families and communities, with an enormously disproportionate impact on people of color. All employers can be leaders in ensuring that a prior conviction does not mean a lifetime of unemployment. Everyone deserves a second chance and the opportunity to compete for a job.”

Robert K. Ross, President of The California Endowment added, “We have worked with, and even hired, a number of formerly incarcerated individuals over the years. They bring valuable experiential wisdom to our mission and work, and a passion for giving back to the community.”

Research shows that employing formerly incarcerated people reduces recidivism and strengthens families. By adopting fair hiring policies, foundations are playing their part as employers to remove the stigma associated with a record, and setting an example for other foundations and their grantees to follow.

As part of their challenge to foundations to be exemplary employers of people with records, Executives’ Alliance members and allies have reviewed their hiring policies and practices to ensure they are in compliance with the civil rights and consumer laws regulating criminal background checks for employment and guidance on the use of criminal records issued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In addition, the Alliance has commissioned the National Employment Law Project to develop a Model Fair Chance Hiring Policy and Toolkit for employers in the philanthropic sector.  The model policy will incorporate key features of the nation’s strongest fair hiring laws (adopted by New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, and other major cities).

Government leaders and advocacy groups have signaled support for the foundations’ call to action. “The White House and the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force commended the Executives’ Alliance for their bold action today to provide more Americans a fair shot and second chance,” said Broderick Johnson, Assistant to the President, Cabinet Secretary and Chair of the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force. “We continue to be encouraged by the philanthropic community’s efforts to advance the goals of My Brother’s Keeper, opening the doors of opportunity to countless Americans.”

“We applaud the Executives’ Alliance for leading the way by creating opportunities for jobseekers with criminal records to fairly compete for employment, while urging other employers to do the same,” said Glenn Martin, founder and President of JustLeadershipUSA. “Jobseekers with criminal records face myriad statutory and practical barriers to labor market participation, a form of bias that serves as a surrogate for race-based discrimination, given the disproportionate impact of the criminal justice system on people of color in America.”

Dorsey Nunn, co-founder of All of Us or None, which launched the “Ban the Box” movement, said, “We want to be treated as human beings in America, despite our conviction history, and be able to feed, clothe and provide shelter for our families. In this instant we want to be a part of the decision making process and have a say so in determining what is important to our community.”

Scott Budnick, Founder and President, Anti-Recidivism Coalition & film producer added, “We applaud the Executives’ Alliance for seeing formerly incarcerated people as potential contributors to our society and economy. The individuals I work with are motivated, optimistic, and committed. They often show up to work early and stay late. They work harder and faster than many of my colleagues in the film industry. They deserve a fair chance at meaningful work, and the right to make not just a living wage but as much as those who haven’t committed crimes.”

Vikki Spruill, President and CEO, Council on Foundations, added, “To advance the common good, philanthropy must adopt practices that embrace the communities we support.”

The foundations taking action include:  Andrus Family Fund, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Arcus Foundation, The Atlantic Philanthropies, Black Belt Community Foundation, Butler Family Fund, California Community Foundation, The California Endowment, The California Wellness Foundation, Casey Family Programs, Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, Consumer Health Foundation, Deaconess Foundation, East Bay Community Foundation, Ford Foundation, Foundation for the Mid South, Edward W. Hazen Foundation, Foundation for Louisiana, Kapor Center for Social Impact, Kresge Foundation, The Jacob & Valeria Langeloth Foundation,  Liberty Hill Foundation, Living Cities, Lumina Foundation, Marguerite Casey Foundation, Missouri Foundation For Health, Nathan Cummings Foundation,  NBPA Foundation, Nelly Mae Education Foundation, Open Society Foundations, Public Welfare Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Rosenberg Foundation, The San Francisco Foundation, The Schott Foundation for Public Education, Sierra Health Foundation, Silicon Valley Community Foundation, The Skillman Foundation, Southern Education Foundation, Tides, Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Foundations interested in accepting the Challenge and other organizations interested in showing support are encouraged to visit the Ban the Box Challenge website:  BanTheBoxPhilanthropy.org.  

About the Executives’ Alliance for Boys and Men of Color:  The Executives’ Alliance is a network of national, regional, and community foundations driven by a bold vision that all boys and men of color will enjoy full inclusion in all the opportunities America has to offer.  Through strategic use of collective action and investments, and by elevating the leadership voice of philanthropic executives, the Alliance’s members seek to remove structural and systemic barriers and increase economic, educational, civic and health opportunities that strengthen individuals, families, communities and the nation as a whole.  The Executives’ Alliance is a sponsored project of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.

The Ford Foundation

The Ford Foundation is an independent organization working to address inequality and build a future grounded in justice. For more than 85 years, it has supported visionaries on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. Today, with an endowment of $16 billion, the foundation has headquarters in New York and 10 regional offices across Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.

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