The Daily Northwestern

City to institute hiring policy for applicants with criminal records

Ald.+Robin+Rue+Simmons+%285th%29+looks+on+at+a+meeting.+Rue+Simmons+said+she+is+pleased+that+the+new+policy+will+provide+more+opportunities+for+returning+citizens.
Ald. Robin Rue Simmons (5th) looks on at a meeting. Rue Simmons said she is pleased that the new policy will provide more opportunities for returning citizens.

Ald. Robin Rue Simmons (5th) looks on at a meeting. Rue Simmons said she is pleased that the new policy will provide more opportunities for returning citizens.

Katie Pach/Daily Senior Staffer

Katie Pach/Daily Senior Staffer

Ald. Robin Rue Simmons (5th) looks on at a meeting. Rue Simmons said she is pleased that the new policy will provide more opportunities for returning citizens.

Ryan Wangman, City Editor

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Aldermen at a City Council meeting on Monday were presented with a hiring policy about applicants with criminal records that city staff will begin following March 1.

The new hiring policy will consider various factors in evaluating how such applicants would be suitable for employment. Ald. Cicely Fleming (9th), who was sick and could not attend the meeting, spearheaded the efforts to update the city’s policy, and city staff met with her and interested community members to gather input on current best practices, according to city documents.

It will also remove a lifetime disqualification from city employment for certain felony convictions, according to the documents. There is also an additional opportunity for a “thorough review” of an applicant’s background if they have a rehabilitation certificate or are working with the Youth and Young Adult program.
City manager Wally Bobkiewicz told The Daily the policy helps the city have more flexibility in making sure past criminal history does not itself completely affect the applicant’s employment potential.

“We want to attract the best people to work for the city of Evanston, and in some cases, the best person has had some criminal history, which we as an organization don’t want to be the sole reason to reject an applicant,” Bobkiewicz said.

Ald. Robin Rue Simmons (5th) said as an alderman, she has focused on reducing the recidivism rate and supporting returning citizens when they come home. Rue Simmons said the city has always valued that community, and the hiring policy will put less restrictions on those people.

Rue Simmons added that she wants to ensure that returning citizens have chances to gain employment, training and education.

“I’m excited that we’re continuing to make sure we’re providing opportunities for our returning citizens,” Rue Simmons said.

In the public comment portion of the meeting, Sarah Vanderwicken, who was a part of the committee that worked with Fleming to update the hiring policy, said she was thankful that staff made improvements for people with past incarceration history, but that she was concerned with the legality of some of the language in the policy. According to city documents, if an applicant with a criminal record is hired, the results of the decision and supporting documents would be placed into the employee’s personnel file. Vanderwicken raised concerns with that provision, saying it could go against federal law.

Bobkiewicz said he did not fully hear Vanderwicken’s comments, and was unable to comment on the issue.

Dale Griffin, an Evanston resident, said he has been working with many Unitarian churches, including some in Evanston, to make congregations more welcoming to all people. He said he has gone into prisons and jails to provide ministry, and he supported efforts to make the city an example of a good place to seek and find employment for people with criminal records.

“The more that you can do on this, the better,” Griffin said. “It’ll make a big difference to the people’s lives and also a big difference to the safety of our communities in the long run.”

Keerti Gopal contributed reporting.

Email: ryanwangman2020.1@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @ryanwangman

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