Representative David Trone

Representing the 6th District of Maryland

Trone, Jeffries, Taylor Send Bipartisan Letter to Trump Administration Expressing Concern Over Disclosure of Pre-Trial Diversion Programs on Federal Employee Job Applications

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May 10, 2019
Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Hannah Muldavin, Hannah.Muldavin@mail.house.gov

Trone, Jeffries, Taylor Send Bipartisan Letter to Trump Administration Expressing Concern Over Disclosure of Pre-Trial Diversion Programs on Federal Employee Job Applications

Washington, DC - Today, Rep. David Trone (D-MD) along with Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Rep. Van Taylor (R-TX) released a bipartisan letter sent to the Trump administration's Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and signed by 16 Members of the House of Representatives. The letter expresses strong concerns over a proposed rule that would require individuals applying to work for the federal government to indicate whether they have participated in a pretrial diversion program.

Statutory pretrial diversion is well established in 48 states and the District of Columbia. It allows low-level, non-violent offenders an opportunity to earn a second chance and avoid a permanent criminal record. These types of programs that promote successful rehabilitation have broad support as demonstrated by the passage of the bipartisan First Step Act.

“The entire purpose of pretrial diversion is to give people an opportunity for a second chance,” said Congressman David Trone (D-MD). “At my company we hired over 100 returning citizens. We knew that people make mistakes, but with a little help, they can get on the right path. We need to be focused on removing barriers to employment, not stripping away second chances, and the federal government should set that example.”

“America is a country that believes in second chances,” said Representative Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY). “Programs that emphasize redemption over recidivism should be applauded rather than shamed. The Office of Personnel Management should immediately withdraw its proposal requiring potential candidates to disclose their participation in pretrial diversion. Representatives Trone and Taylor are to be commended for their efforts in this regard.”

“Requiring prospective federal employees to disclose their participation in pretrial diversion programs completely counteracts the purpose of such programs existing in the first place,” said Congressman Van Taylor (R-TX). “Pretrial diversion programs are generally available for first-time, low-level offenders, and typically include various requirements like making restitution, performing community service, participating in counseling, and staying out of trouble. These programs exist entirely to rehabilitate these individuals and not subject them to the far reaching and grave consequences of the criminal justice system that often stay with them for the rest of their lives.”

Rep. Trone, Chairman Jeffries, and Rep. Taylor were joined by 13 Members of Congress in signing the letter: Representatives Anthony Brown, Don Beyer, Yvette D. Clarke, Adriano Espaillat, Sheila Jackson Lee, Ro Khanna, Grace Meng, Gwen Moore, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Donald Payne Jr., Jamie Raskin, Lucille Roybal-Allard, and Jan Schakowsky.

You can see the complete letter here.

The text of the letter is reprinted below.

Congressman David Trone was elected to the House of Representatives in November 2018 to serve the 6th District of Maryland, which includes all or part of Montgomery, Frederick, Washington, Allegany, and Garrett Counties. Trone serves on the Education and Labor, Foreign Affairs, and Joint Economic Committees, where he is fighting to make progress on issues that matter to Marylanders, including the opioid epidemic, criminal justice reform, and funding for medical research.

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May 7, 2019

 

The Honorable Margaret Weichert

Acting Director

U.S. Office of Personnel Management

1900 E Street, NW

Washington, D.C. 20415

 

Dear Acting Director Weichert:

We write to you to express strong concern regarding the proposed changes to the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) hiring practices that would require prospective federal employees and contractors to disclose their participation in pretrial diversion programs.[1]

A conviction history is a significant obstacle to obtaining gainful employment. Research has shown that a criminal record makes an employer almost half as likely to call an applicant back, and the effect is even more dramatic if the person seeking employment is a person of color.[2] This has led to unemployment rates of over 27% for formerly incarcerated individuals.[3]  For the aforementioned reasons, diversion programs are essential to breaking cycles of incarceration - a conclusion that has strong, bipartisan support.

Statutory pretrial diversion is well established in 48 states and the District of Columbia[4] and is designed to offer non-violent offenders a second chance to avoid the collateral consequences of conviction and the stigma of a criminal record. Once a diversion program has been successfully completed, there is no conviction. That is especially important as convictions can sometimes carry lifetime consequences of unemployment.[5] A federal hiring inquiry into an applicant's participation in a diversion program defeats the very purpose of these programs. At a time of growing consensus regarding the need to prioritize rehabilitation and reintegration for individuals who have touched the criminal justice system, OPM should be moving to reduce—rather than increase— barriers to employment.

OPM’s current Federal Hiring Questionnaire limits its inquiries to incarceration, probation, and parole. Requiring applicants to make an admission about pretrial diversion is a significant departure from this practice, and it runs counter to the administration’s goal to “unite around prison reform legislation that will reduce crime while giving our fellow citizens a chance at redemption.”[6] With one in three Americans possessing a criminal record, access to the workforce is already difficult for a significant number of people. That access should not be impeded further by the federal government, which currently employs 2.1 million people.[7]

America is a country of second chances, and a mistake should not leave an individual with a lifetime sentence of unemployment and instability. Too often we have seen that one single blemish on a person’s criminal record can obstruct their ability to support themselves, their families, and their communities. We are turning the corner and there is broad, bipartisan support to help people reenter the economy and their community with the supports they need to succeed. Diversion programs that provide mental, behavioral and addiction treatment are an essential and proven tool in reducing recidivism and increasing employment.[8]

Everyone deserves an opportunity to work for a better life. We strongly encourage OPM to immediately withdraw the proposed requirement for disclosure of diversions.

Sincerely,

 


[1] See 84 Fed. Reg. 5733 (February 22, 2019)

[2] Wharton School of Public Policy,CRIMINAL RECORDS AND UNEMPLOYMENT: THE IMPACT ON THE ECONOMY, (August, 2017), https://publicpolicy.wharton.upenn.edu/live/news/2071-criminal-records-and-unemployment-the-impact-on

[3] Shannon, S.K.S., Uggen, C., Schnittker, J. et al. Demography (2017) 54: 1795. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13524-017-0611-1

[4] NCLS, Pretrial Diversion Programs, (Sept, 2017), http://www.ncsl.org/research/civil-and-criminal-justice/pretrial-diversion.aspx

[5] ACLU of Kansas, Choosing Incarceration: Kansas Prosecutors’ Refusal to Use Diversion and the Cost to Communities , Dec. 2017 (updated Jan. 2018), https://www.aclukansas.org/sites/default/files/field_documents/choosing_incarceration_-_aclu_report_on_diversion_in_kansas_-_updated_january_2018__0.pdf.

[6]White House, President Donald J. Trump Is Committed to Building on the Successes of the First Step Act (April,  2019),  https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/president-donald-j-trump-committed-building-successes-first-step-act/)

[7]  CRS, Federal Workforce Statistics Sources: OPM and OMB (March , 2019), https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R43590.pdf )

[8] The Center for Health and Justice, No Entry: A National Survey of Criminal and Justice Diversion Programs and initiatives (2013) http://www2.centerforhealthandjustice.org/sites/www2.centerforhealthandjustice.org/files/publications/CHJ%20Diversion%20Report_web.pdf