CA: ‘We just keep punishing.’ Californians with criminal records still face housing barriers

Source / Los Angeles Times 8/2/22

Cynthia Blake lives cramped in a tiny studio apartment in Long Beach, in a space divided into four units that used to be a church. There is no bathroom inside her home; it’s outside in a different part of the building.

Blake, 53, remembers the $1,050 apartment being advertised for a long time, as interest in the odd setup was low. Still, she felt she had to lie to be considered a potential renter: she did not check the box that asked if she had ever been convicted of a crime.

If she had, there’s a good chance her application for the apartment would have been denied, and her time living on the streets prolonged — a part of her life that she said made her two-year stint in prison for felony drug charges feel like “a relief.”

Housing options for Blake are limited. Tenants are often at the mercy of private landlords who conduct criminal background checks. Regulations restrict people from accessing federally subsidized housing if they’ve been convicted of certain crimes, including drug and sex offenses.

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Just imagine how much homelessness, criminal recidivism and poverty would diminish if people’s personal information remained personal. You get a place to live, you can then have a stable environment in order to go get a decent job. If you are working, you are less likely to commit offenses. This isn’t rocket science. This is basic logic.

This is the one thing that scares my family and I. We would like to look for a home or an apartment in the Murrieta, CA area but I am a little bit worried that we will not find any property to call home due to my S.O. that happened over 10 years ago. What can a person like myself do to make sure that my family has a roof over there head? Is there housing available for people that are on the registry?

This goes into our overall limited view of punishment. Right now, we, collectively speaking, only see punishment as fines or imprisonment.

Until we can educate the population of the civil death that occurs upon punishment, this will continue.

I would help Cynthia Blake. Often it is not only housing that is a challenge but employment and other resources. ACSOL is a great place to start …

Most of the comments in the article are altogether a bunch of uninformed opinions.

By pushing the formerly incarcerated out of opportunities for housing and employment, some people in California don’t realize the extent of the hidden costs we all incur for their shortsightedness:

Cost of any acts of recidivism (theft, etc.): indeterminate
Being returned to prison: $106,000/year
Cost of basic services to indigent persons: as much as $40,500/year
Visits to emergency departments: Between $18,500 and $44,400/year
Loss of value as a productive worker in the job market: inestimable

While some may not be motivated to live a law-abiding life after crime, we should not take away the incentive for living as a productive member of society. Anyone who thinks otherwise may kindly step forward and foot the bill, please.

This is strictly my experience in California , if your sex crime is over 7 years old it will not show up on a “ criminal back ground check.” Where the whole background scheme gets you is when the background service uses the credit check background checking credit, past rentals , references etc, there is where your sex offender blast shows up . Although the check will come back with no picture just your name and DOB the investigation service will leave the burden on the requester to determine what they want to do with the information. ( almost a type of disclaimer on behalf of the investigation company from liability) In my case, I was asked about the information the private investigating service provided to the requester ,but before I was asked ,the requester requesting the “ground check” had already checked the Magen web site and found the information. Once the requester found the information, the requester asked me if I wanted to continue with my application, if so , they would need to do a personal assessment on me. Meaning, the requester would ask a series of questions about circumstances leading up to the conviction etc. Lastly , it’s not the “criminal background “ per se it’s the credit reporting act that jams the person being checked . It’s bull crap but another loop hole to get around the “ check the box “ laws in California .