There are 65 – 70 million people with criminal records in the United States, with approximately 800,000 more released from state and federal prisons, and 9 million from local jails, annually.
Employment of people with criminal records who have paid their dues is the key social policy that substantially reduces recidivism (re-offending). And education is the foundation for any sustainable, meaningful employment.
In the U.S., there is in the reentry community far too little outreach and almost no support services for white-collar and other typically educated people with criminal records. There is also far too little effort to educate as many people with criminal records as possible.
Accordingly, Mr. Michael Sweig founded the non-profit Institute for People with Criminal Records (a Colorado non-profit), the general mission of which is to seek equal justice under law, and to empower people with criminal records to speak with a collective, unified and educated voice in the US Congress, state legislatures, counties and municipalities nationwide.
The Institute for People with Criminal Records is committed to pursuing meaningful employment, improved access to higher education and equal opportunities of all kinds through, among other things, advocacy by and for educated and rehabilitated people with criminal records, such as those found in CriminalDatabase.org. The Institute for People with Criminal Records also provides academic support for lobbying and advocacy, and among other things, is about to embark upon training people with criminal records as paralegals, criminal justice reform lobbyists, and advocates.
A primary goal is that leaders in the victims’ rights, business and law enforcement communities will trust the Institute to collaborate effectively, and with political sensitivity, on how best incrementally to reform legislation and influence judicial policy that protects public safety and empowers people with criminal records.
In 2011, the Institute for People with Criminal Records launched an initiative, “Changing the Rhetoric of Felony.” Among the initiative’s main goals:
- focus on development and delivery of first class education and civic engagement resources for people with criminal records and their families;
- help to educate and convince employers with blanket felon hiring bans to be open-minded and change that policy; to voluntarily follow EEOC Guidelines, and when felons apply for jobs to consider:
1. The nature and gravity of the offense or offenses;
2. The time that has passed since the conviction and/or completion of the sentence; and
3. The nature of the job held or sought.
Part of this initiative is the attempt to get bills passed in legislature which would provide the ability for convicting courts to relieve probationers and those who have completed their criminal sentences from “collateral consequences of conviction” in employment, licensing, housing and other barriers. The bill would remove from a person’s criminal record arrests for which there were no charges or convictions, and would seal petty offenses not previously sealable.
Such bills are necessary in every state for people with criminal records to lead a life without prejudice.