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Austin/Travis County Reentry Roundtable

May 2016

White House Launches Fair Chance Business Pledge 

Last Monday, the White House launched a Fair Chance Business Pledge calling on businesses to invest in their communities and eliminate unnecessary hiring barriers for individuals with criminal records. White House officials hosted 19 companies from across the American economy who are standing with the Obama Administration as founding pledge takers. Obama commented on Fair Chance Hiring, "Around 70 million Americans have some sort of criminal record … Now, a lot of time, that record disqualifies you from being a full participant in our society — even if you’ve already paid your debt to society. It means millions of Americans have difficulty even getting their foot in the door to try to get a job much less actually hang on to that job. That's bad for not only those individuals, it's bad for our economy. It’s bad for the communities that desperately need more role models who are gainfully employed. So we’ve got to make sure Americans who’ve paid their debt to society can earn their second chance." Learn more about the initiative here!

Featured Reentry Advocacy Project Member: Charles Walker


Name: Charles Walker
Three words that describe you: 
Considerate, Compassionate, and Determined.
What are the top challenges that you faced when reentering? 
Why do you participate in the Reentry Advocacy Project? 
I participate in the Reentry Advocacy Project because I truly believe I can help others have a successful reentry. I know all of the resources available here in Central Texas for reentry. I am also a Professional Case Manager and Counselor.
What accomplishments are you most proud of? 
The accomplishments I am most proud of include getting a (Criminal Justice) Bachelors Degree, being a licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor Intern (the only State License a once incarcerated person can receive), and having had professional jobs for the City of Austin in the State of Texas and the private sector.

San Francisco Fair Chance Hiring Report Released 

Austin isn't the only city taking the Fair Chance Hiring movement by storm. Stanford public policy students released the results of research addressing some of the effects of San Francisco’s fair chance hiring policies. As explained in a San Francisco Chronicle article, the researchers analyzed data for approximately 5,000 employees hired within the past 1.5 years, roughly 800 of which had a conviction record. The results showed that employees with conviction records performed the same as those who lacked any record. The research thus further debunks the notion that hiring people with records means having worse employees. This research comes at an important moment. “Fair Chance” and “Ban the Box” policies are proliferating across the nation, providing welcome relief for the nearly 1 in 3 American adults with a criminal background. This may be a sign of a new political reality that, after decades of increasingly punitive practices, there is a growing consensus doors should be opening for people with criminal records, rather than being closed. Policies like those in San Francisco are lowering barriers and helping make sure that, when it comes to employment, more people are getting a fair chance.

LBJ School and University of Houston Focus on Police, Jails, and Vulnerable People

The Criminal Justice Institute at the University of Houston Law Center (UHLC) and the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas released videos and a report that focused on issues examining pretrial policies and procedures from a suspect's arrest to trial. The resources stem from a statewide symposium held earlier this year at the University of Houston called "Police, Jails, and Vulnerable People: New Strategies for Confronting Today's Challenges." The report, which is derived from symposium proceedings, details experts' recommendations on such issues as policing, pretrial diversion for persons with mental illness, bail reform, jail safety and suicide prevention.  Michele Deitch, a senior lecturer at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, prepared the compilation with the assistance of her graduate students. For more information you can read the symposium proceedings here and the article about the conference here

Current Reentry News

Developing a Local Strategy to Address System Barriers to Employment

On April 13th, the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition (ECHO) and the Reentry Roundtable hosted the first of three conversations focusing on addressing system barriers to employment for persons who are homeless and/or have criminal backgrounds. The first meeting focused on building understanding about the current local climate and identifying potential opportunities and strengths to build on. A summary of the first meeting can be found here. Please join us for two upcoming meetings, both at the Travis County Administrative Building (700 Lavaca St.), 2nd Floor, Conference Room B (parking garage validation provided):
•Wednesday, May 11th, 1-3pm: Ensuring that potential strategies align with the perspectives of persons with lived experience of the criminal justice system and homelessness
•Wednesday, June 8th, 1-3pm: Developing a local strategy to address identified barriers
Please RSVP to

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Issues Guidance on Fair Housing and Use of Criminal Records 

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development released a guidance document on April 4th. The document states, "The Fair Housing Act prohibits both intentional housing discrimination and housing practices that have an unjustified discriminatory effect because of race, national origin or other protected characteristics. While the Act does not prohibit housing providers from appropriately considering criminal history information when making housing decisions, arbitrary and over broad criminal history-related bans are likely to lack a legally sufficient justification. Selective use of criminal history as a pretext for unequal treatment of individuals based on race, national origin, or other protected characteristics violates the Act." Read the full document here.  

Travis County Restores Jail Visitations 

Face-to-face visitation returned to the Travis County Jail. It is the first time such visitation has been allowed since 2013, when Travis County Sheriff Greg Hamilton enacted a policy that allowed only for video chat interface. That policy was struck down during the county budget process. In a press release about the official return of in-person visitation, Travis County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said, “I am gratified that, through collaboration with the Travis County Sheriff’s Office, in-person visitation has been restored so that loved ones of the people in our custody are able to have meaningful contact.” According to that same press release, in-person visits are available at minimum- or medium-security levels for inmates who have been incarcerated for more than 60 days and have not had any disciplinary infractions during their incarceration.

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Austin/Travis County Reentry Roundtable · Palm Square · 100 North Interstate 35 · Austin, TX 78701 · USA

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