Host: Americans for Immigrant Justice
Sponsor: Greenberg Traurig, LLP, The Florida Bar Foundation
As a Fellow with CSS’s Next Door Project, I work to remove and challenge barriers to employment faced by people with criminal records. My specific project involves working closely with the Osborne Association, serving clients in Osborne’s successful workforce readiness programs by obtaining and explaining their criminal records, helping them earn certificates to demonstrate rehabilitation, and representing them if denied a job or an occupational license. I will also be training Osborne staff to read and understand criminal records, along with the employment rights of the people they serve.
More than six million New Yorkers have a criminal record, and they face significant and growing barriers
to employment. These barriers fall hardest on people of color: African Americans and Latinos are,
respectively, nine and four times more likely to be incarcerated than whites in New York, and they are
disproportionately arrested and convicted for quality-of-life offenses.
Once a person has a criminal record, economic prospects plummet. 60% of people released from incarceration are unemployed one year afterwards, and the unemployment rate for people with criminal
records hovers around 50%.
This high unemployment rate is exacerbated when job applicants understand neither their criminal
record nor their rights. Many individuals think, for example, that misdemeanor convictions are expunged after seven years, or that having a felony conviction prevents them from voting; neither is true. Conversely, they may not be aware that New York law explicitly protects people with criminal records from employment
discrimination, and that they may be eligible for state-issued certificates of rehabilitation that can help
them obtain occupational licenses and jobs that would otherwise be unavailable to them because of their
Throughout my law school career, I worked in various ways toward the preservation of Constitutional rights in the criminal justice context. This work took the form of facilitating know-your-rights trainings for many of New York City’s over-policed communities as a member of the National Lawyers Guild’s Street Law Project, promoting judicial reform as an intern at the Center for Court Innovation, representing a wrongfully arrested individual as a student in Cardozo’s Civil Rights Clinic, and conducting discovery and drafting complaints in police brutality cases as an intern at the law firm Rankin and Taylor.