Fingerprinting limits job growth
There is a 58 percent chance that if you were charged with a felony and acquitted you would still be in the fingerprinting database
Fingerprinting adversely impacts at-risk youth, adults and veterans — those that need stable work the most
By ERNEST ROBERTS
The path to self-sufficiency, and the self-esteem it engenders begins with stable work. It can be the difference between becoming a contributing member of our economy or retreating further and further into societal margins.
At PVJOBS, we know this because we see it every day, and we have made it our mission to help thousands of men and women — at-risk youth, adults and veterans (including homeless veterans) — find meaningful work opportunities that put them on a path to self-sufficiency.
But work opportunities for these populations are not plentiful. The reality is that as our economy recovers, the benefits of that recovery are unevenly distributed and disproportionately lacking within these populations, especially in communities of color. Indeed, Los Angeles has the highest poverty rate of all large U.S. cities.
It’s clear that what’s needed are more work opportunities for Angelinos. Although Mayor Garcetti’s latest effort to impose fingerprint background check requirements on all ridesharing and limo drivers seems logical and may have been done with the best intentions, it only creates more unnecessary hurdles to work for a citizenry for whom prospects for employment is already lacking.
Fingerprinting sounds benign enough on the surface, but the reality is that the FBI and State databases are riddled with inaccuracies, often outdated, and incomplete. Notably, they catch arrests but not convictions. This, obviously, impacts minority communities the most.
Last year, the Greenlining Institute stated that California only records the disposition of 57 percent of arrests and 42 percent of felony charges. This means that there is a 58 percent chance that if you were charged with a felony and acquitted you would still be in the database with no record of the acquittal. In plain talk, under the mayor’s proposal, you’d be denied driving for Uber or Lyft because you were once arrested but never convicted.
While fingerprinting has the ability to impact anyone seeking work, it disproportionately impacts communities of color. Black and Brown men and women have significantly more interactions with the law. And these interactions have no correlation with rates of actual criminal behavior. At least 70 police departments across the U.S. arrest African-Americans at 10 times the rate of Caucasians.
Poverty has jumped 69 percent in Southern California since 1990. Implementing fingerprint-based background checks further undermines efforts to effect real, positive change in the Los Angeles community. While we understand the intent to increase safety with fingerprint background checks, there are better ways to achieve it. Instead of pushing for policies that are harmful to at-risk populations, perhaps our local officials should advocate for policies that give our communities a chance to overcome barriers to economic success.
Put simply, we need more work opportunities for the people we serve, not fingerprinting policies that create hurdles to work for those that need jobs the most.
Ernest Roberts, Executive Director PVJOBS, a nonprofit South Los Angeles-based workforce development center that works to place at-risk youth/adults and veterans in employment.