By Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The city and the nation has focused a lot attention on the impact of the criminal justice system on men and boys of color, but a new report shows women of color who have a criminal record have a tough time as well.
“We’re creating this generation of people who are not going to be able to be employed at all,” says Jamie Gullen, a staff attorney at Community Legal Services of Philadelphia. The group released a report titled, “Young Women of Color with Criminal Records,” which analyzes the groups observations of its clients over the past couple of years.
CLS provided law services to hundreds of women with criminal records, mostly Black and Latino since 2012 and found that even if criminal offenses are minor, women had a tougher time than men getting employment.
“Women tend to seek work in areas such as retail or care giving fields and those areas are very heavily background checked, so employers are very wary of having people with any sort of criminal record,” says Gullen.
She notes the offenses in question are as minor as disorderly conduct or low-level retail theft and some are nearly a decade old. Despite these factors, with a criminal blemish in their background, these women – many who are single moms – are left with no choice but to rely on social safety nets like welfare and food stamps to take care of their families. Gullen says Pennsylvania lawmakers need to alter state policy so these eager, young women can get to work.
“Right now in Pennsylvania only non-convictions can be expunged and misdemeanor and felony convictions cannot be expunged, regardless of how much time passes,” says Gullen. “If we were able to expand expungements for low-level misdemeanors after a certain amount of time has passed, that would be a huge help.”
Gullen says other recommendations include educating employers regarding EEOC guidelines and ensuring that restrictions on who is barred from employment are not over broad.