This is a guest blog post from Employment Opportunity Legal Corps (EOLC) Fellow Zane Johnson ('16), of Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity (PLSE) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
This may sound cliché, but I became an attorney because I wanted to help people. More specifically, I wanted to help communities that are traditionally underserved and overlooked. It was this urge to serve that ultimately led me to my Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Fellowship at Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity (PLSE). PLSE is a nonprofit legal aid organization working towards just outcomes for low-income individuals who have had contact with Pennsylvania’s criminal justice system. As an Employment Opportunity Legal Corps (EOLC) Fellow at PLSE, my mission is to help people overcome the barriers to employment created by their criminal records.
Employers often use criminal history records as a proxy for predicting future job performance. Unfortunately, instead of using this information as a single factor when considering a job candidate, employers often choose to disqualify all candidates with a criminal history regardless of its relevance to the position for which they are applying. The result is that people are unfairly excluded from job opportunities they are otherwise qualified for. Many times these charges are ones they were never convicted of, or years-old mistakes that they are trying to put behind them.