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Forum Unites Community Leaders to Urge Broward County Commissioners to Ban the Box

With a Commission vote looming, community members from across Broward County will be speaking in support of passing Ban the Box legislation

MEDIA ADVISORY for June 8

Contact:  Elizabeth Fernandez, elizabeth.fernandez@seiufl.org, 954-652-9897

WHO:      Commissioner Dale V.C. Holness, legal experts and community leaders
WHAT:     Ban the Box Community Forum
WHEN:    Wednesday, June 8, at 7 pm
WHERE: Lauderhill Mall – SE Entrance
                 1267 N State Road 7
                 Lauderhill, FL 33313

Fort Lauderdale, FL — On the heels of a successful prayer breakfast that united clergy members from across Broward County to discuss the upcoming Ban the Box legislation, community leaders are coming together for a public forum. Local leaders, clergy members, legal experts and affected community members will be there to discuss the best ways to urge the Commission to eliminate criminal history questions from county job applications. They will also share their personal stories and discuss the impact the legislation could have on the community with reporters. Broward County will be holding its final vote on June 14.

“This is one area where the County can show leadership in terms of how we deal with folks who might have had some issues in the past who now want to live a full life and be productive,” said Broward Commissioner Dale V.C. Holness. “There are 70 million Americans who have had some issues with the law whether it be arrest or conviction.”

Speakers include Commissioner Dale V.C. Holness; Barry Butin, criminal defense attorney and co-legal panel chair of the Broward ACLU; and Laurence Matthew, a workforce development specialist at OIC of South Florida who works directly with returning citizens seeking employment, as well as community members like Rudolph Mack, Jr., who will share personal testimony about his inability to find steady employment after being charged at the age of 17 back in 1998.

Research shows people of color are disproportionately affected by “the box,” making up 14% of the US, but 40% of the incarcerated population, and it takes African Americans with past convictions three times as long to get a callback or a job offer. In other cities and counties, Ban the Box legislation has had a huge impact on hiring. In Durham, North Carolina, for example, there was a jump in the proportion of people with records hired for municipal jobs, rising from 2.25% to 15%.

“Yes, I made a mistake, but that’s not who I am now,” said Demetrius Ivory, whose story was recently profiled in New Times Broward-Palm Beach. “I’m a single father trying to take care of my family and looking for better opportunities and ways to improve myself. I’ve applied for County jobs over and over again for the past six years, and have never heard back once. I just a want a second chance.”

Miramar resident Pastor Rhonda Thomas of Faith in Florida has been fighting for years to restore the rights of returning citizens. She has seen first-hand the impact “the box” has had on members of the community.

“Restoring the dignity and humanity of people with records gives them a real chance to succeed for the sake of their families and communities,” Thomas said. “That’s why we’re urging Broward County to pass Ban the Box and give everybody a fair chance at a good job.”

“We are lucky we have a progressive County Administrator, a progressive County Commission and a staff that is alert to the difficulties that people have gone through in the past,” added Mayor Marty Kiar.

While Ban the Box wouldn’t eliminate background checks, it would give individuals who have interacted with the criminal justice system a fair chance to compete for employment and be judged on their qualifications first, without the stigma of an arrest or conviction. To date, 23 states and more than 100 cities and counties have passed Ban the Box legislation, Including Miami-Dade.

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SEIU Florida represents over 55,000 active and retired healthcare professionals, public employees and property service workers in the state of Florida. SEIU members provide vital public services in Florida’s hospitals, nursing homes, public schools, community colleges, municipal and county governments, malls, and universities. With over 2.1 million members, SEIU is the fastest-growing union in North America.