OK, so, to be clear, we're all for having criminals do their time, regret their crimes, and we believe that many of them can be rehabilitated and return to society as respectable citizens who deserve a chance to prove themselves. That being said, California is about to face a major opening of the floodgates of paroled prisoners, per the Supreme Court, and everyone is understandably nervous that a few bad apples are likely to end up in the bushels that appear on our doorstep in the coming months. Enter Supervisor and sheriff candidate Ross Mirkarimi, darling of the Progressives, who along with a committee of law enforcement folks and legal advocates would like San Francisco to roll out a more welcoming welcome mat than the rest of the state, by protecting ex-cons from discrimination when they try to seek jobs and housing here.
As Matier and Ross report, "Ex-cons already are a protected class when it comes to applying for a city job or seeking to live in housing run by the San Francisco Housing Authority." But the Reentry Council of San Francisco has drafted a proposal that would impose the same protected class ordinance on private sector employers and landlords as well, giving ex-cons the same protections as any other minority. The proposed ordinance would make it illegal to ask about previous incarceration on employment or housing applications. Exceptions would be made for sex offenders and certain violent crimes -- but how's a landlord to know of such things if they aren't allowed to ask in the first place?
District Attorney and former police chief George Gascon, who we hardly would expect to get behind this, shows us his liberal side. "Trust me - I recognize the concern," he says. "But if we want to reduce the likelihood of people going back to prison, then we have to provide them with an opportunity to reintegrate themselves."