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The Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) strives to offer meaningful access to public housing and employment opportunities for people with criminal records and to keep communities safe and vibrant. Vera is providing research and policy guidance to HANO to inform screening processes that will allow for individualized assessments of the suitability of people with criminal convictions for HANO-assisted housing and employment in the city of New Orleans. This approach aims to reduce long-term negative consequences of criminal convictions while fostering fair and safe communities.

HANO is committed to addressing barriers to affordable housing and employment faced by those with criminal records. Advocates of workers’ and convicted people’s rights as well as residents, developers, and HANO staff are involved in building a comprehensive policy that will treat those with criminal convictions more fairly while ensuring the safety of the community. To help develop policies that achieve these goals, HANO turned to Vera. A team comprising members of Vera’s Family Justice Program, Legal Department, and New Orleans Office is using its collective expertise in criminal justice research, public housing policies, risk-assessment instruments, and the local impact of convictions to address this challenge.

Vera will develop screening guidelines to inform HANO’s decisions for admission to subsidized housing and employment and assess the relevance of criminal convictions in these contexts. This process will consider individual circumstances while using objective criteria to determine the risk a person with relevant criminal conviction poses to the community. The expected outcome is that people with criminal records will have greater access to housing and employment through HANO, while ensuring the safety of the community, as persons with criminal records will be more carefully and fairly considered. 
 
Why encourage access to housing and employment for people with criminal convictions?
 
Housing and employment are crucial to the success of people with criminal convictions, especially following incarceration. Yet in jurisdictions throughout the United States, a criminal record triggers many negative consequences, such as barriers to housing and employment, regardless of the time that has elapsed since conviction and efforts to reintegrate into the community. Collateral consequences of criminal convictions are particularly concerning when they limit people’s opportunities and disproportionately affect communities of color. Rethinking access to affordable housing and employment opportunities for people with criminal records is therefore particularly crucial in New Orleans, where a significant percentage of New Orleanians face these challenges; the city’s jail detention rate has long been the highest in the nation, and Louisiana’s incarceration rate is also the highest in the country with people from New Orleans overrepresented in state prisons. 
 
For more information, contact Jon Wool, director of Vera’s New Orleans office
 
 
03/30/2016
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