Mirkarimi has a plan to encourage hiring felons

October 18, 2011 7:37:54 PM PDT
San Francisco Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi is proposing a plan that would give tax breaks in exchange for hiring a convicted felon. It will, he believes, lower the unemployment rate and save the county some money at the same time.

ABC7 takes a look at the plan and how it's worked in other cities. San Francisco has an unemployment rate somewhere between 9 and 10 percent. But if we're talking about people with criminal records, the unemployment rate is as high as 70 percent and nearly three out of four convicted felons wind up going back to jail.

In California the rate at which parolees return to prison is among the highest in the country and the chances of employment upon release are among the lowest. Mirkarimi hopes to change that.

"It would be a simple tax credit per year, per ex-offender felon that they would hire in the equivalent of $10,000," said Mirkarimi.

Mirkarimi wants to give San Francisco employers a reason to hire an ex-convict. He thinks a tax credit of $10,000 per person hired, would be a good start.

"As it stands it costs over $50,000 a year to incarcerate somebody in San Francisco's county jail," said Mirkarimi. "So we would be saving a lot of money also if in fact that we add an effective job placement and job strategy tool an equation that doesn't exist yet."

At UC Berkeley, Andrea Russi headed a study on increasing employment opportunities for people with prior convictions. She says similar plans have been tried, but didn't catch on.

"And part of that maybe that it requires, you know, some paperwork and jumping though some hoops to be able to get the tax credit," said Russi.

And some of it is that there was insufficient motivation to hire people with a criminal record. In Illinois' Sheridan Prison, they have had some success, but their tax incentives were combined with an in prison education system, a job's training program, and mandatory counseling.

In San Francisco electrician Matt Baranski doesn't think the financial incentives alone will be enough.

"It's just going to be the best person for the job and we've got college people who need work, let's give them a job. A felon?eh, I don't think so," said Baranski.

ABC7 talked with the folks at Delancey Street. They've been working for 40 years to get ex-cons hired. Their president said the job market right now is extremely difficult, but there have been successes and incentive plans, like the one being put forward by Mirkarimi. She said seems to be an important step in the right direction.


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