California's Fair Chance Hiring Law


Did you know that California is now a fair chance hiring state? What does that mean for your business? Fair chance hiring means that people with criminal background are given a fair chance at applying for jobs without their criminal background automatically disqualifying them.

What You Need to Know about the Law

The Fair Chance Act (AB 1008) went into effect on January 1, 2018, and does the following:

  • California employers with more than five employees can no longer ask about conviction history before making a conditional job offer.

  • Job applications cannot include a question about criminal convictions.

  • Employers can ask about conviction history or run a criminal background check after a conditional offer has been made.

  • If a background check turns up convictions, the employer must consider the nature and gravity of the crime(s), how they relate to the job and how much time has passed since conviction. If an employer decides to rescind the offer, they must tell the applicant in writing, provide a copy of the conviction history used to make the decision and allow the applicant five days to respond. The employer must then review the response and issue a final decision via writing.

  • Employers cannot make employment decisions based on arrests that were not followed by conviction; participation in pretrial or post-trial diversion programs; or convictions that have been sealed, dismissed, expunged or statutorily eradicated.

  • There are some exceptions to this law, including certain positions at healthcare facilities, farm labor contractors and positions with criminal justice agencies. There are also exceptions where an employer is required by another law to conduct a background check and restrict employment due to criminal history.

Why Support Fair Chance Hiring?

Failure to follow this law may result in complaints to the Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Check your job application and review your hiring process to make sure you are complying with this law.

Aside from the legal requirement, being a fair-chance-hiring employer is good for business. Nearly one-third of adults in the US have some kind of criminal record. Many of these people are ready to work and know the value of landing a good job. A job can be a big part of successful reentry and living a healthy and productive life. Not only does a job provide income to pay basic expenses, it also provides people with a sense of purpose. These are things that reduce recidivism and keep people from going back to jail or prison. 

Employers who hire the formerly incarcerated may qualify for a tax credit under the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) as well as a free federal bonding program. To learn more, visit our page on WOTC and federal bonding.

Do you want more information on fair chance hiring, or are you an employer who has questions about hiring a formerly incarcerated person? We are here to help. Email us or fill out the contact form on our Get Involved page, and we will get in touch with you to answer your questions. We also have the information in this blog post available as a flyer that we can send to you.

Building Trust with Reentry Clients


By Stephanie Hammerwold
Executive Director & Co-Founder

I was recently at an event where there was a panel made up of people who work with the reentry community. Someone from the audience asked about building a sense of trust with formerly incarcerated clients. One person on the panel stated that his clients need to earn his trust. This statement did not sit well with me, and it was not until the drive home that I really began to think through why it didn’t.

Formerly incarcerated people have many reasons not to trust service providers, parole and probation officers and others in their lives. It is not uncommon for those in prison to have past traumas that contributed to landing them in a cell. In addition, the system often sets people up to fail with impossible restrictions and a lack of reentry support. All of these things can make it really hard for a formerly incarcerated person to trust anyone. So why take the approach that a reentry client has to earn our trust?

When we work with Pacific Reentry Career Services clients, we immediately start from a place of trusting them. It is not up to them to earn our trust. By taking the step to contact us or by showing up in one of our workshops, we trust that the client is committed to making positive changes in their lives. From this place, we have to work to earn their trust. They need to know that we are reliable and will be there, even when things don’t go well. This sets the foundation for modeling a healthy relationship built on unconditional support.

Building trust is a slow process, especially when working with a population that has a hard time trusting others. But there are some simple ways to begin that process:

  • We are on time for meetings and are there when we say we will be. If we have to cancel, we do so in advance and reach out to the client to let them know.

  • We follow through on promises and are honest about our limitations.

  • It’s important that we admit when we make a mistake. We are honest and transparent. We aren’t perfect, so it is important that we are truthful when we mess up. This includes being honest about the barriers someone will face.

  • We continue to support clients even when an interview doesn’t go well or they miss a deadline. We don’t admonish but instead talk about what can be done differently next time.

  • Sometimes we develop a plan for a client, and they don’t follow through. Instead of criticizing them, we instead use it as a moment to reflect. Was the plan too ambitious to the point that the client was overwhelmed? Should we revise the plan to create more realistic goals that match where the client is now?

Building a successful mentorship relationship also requires that we give ourselves to the relationship. This means sharing our own stories. Each mentor needs to figure out their own boundaries, but sharing some of our own struggles helps build a close connection to the client. As mentors, we want to give our clients a model of a healthy relationship, and sharing some of ourselves is a good way to build that type of bond.

For more information on why building trust is so important with clients, read up on trauma-informed care.

Can the Incarcerated Vote in the November General Elections?


By Gisele Nguyen-Gill

“Until today, I didn’t know I could vote. This institution, by not providing me with the necessary information, deprived me of my right, my civic duty as an American, to vote,” a detainee in Orange County Jail wrote to the Jail Project -Unlock the Vote Team on April 2018.

Throughout the country, there is widespread misconception that those who are incarcerated are not eligible to cast a vote. Some jail officers, local election authorities and detainees themselves do not realize the incarcerated have civil rights that are protected by the Constitution. Civic-minded U.S. citizens on the outside and those on the inside can make their voices heard by registering to vote in the General Election on November 6, 2018.

What is the ACLU - Unlock the Vote Campaign’s Purpose?

To increase awareness and demystify the voting process for eligible detainees, the ACLU, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to defending the principles of liberty and equality, has collaborated with community partners to launch Unlock the Vote (UTV), a voter education and registration campaign, aimed to reduce barriers to registration and voting for justice-involved and justice-impacted individuals in Orange County and Los Angeles County. To do this, the ACLU SoCal-Jails Project mails information to those who are incarcerated, registers formerly incarcerated individuals after their release from county jail and also registers family and friends to vote.

By informing the disenfranchised communities inside the Los Angeles and Orange County jails, the UTV campaign aims to increase access to voting for at least 23,000 people and their families. Historically, these folks have been denied their right to register without sufficient information to register and cast a ballot.

According to the ACLU So Cal, more than 60,000 people are booked annually into five county jail facilities in Orange County alone. At any point in time, there are approximately 6,000 people incarcerated and more than 50% of those incarcerated have not been convicted of a crime.  (LA County jail is the largest in the world. Data is currently unavailable.)

What are your right to vote in California?

In California, if a detainee is a U.S. Citizen, 18 or older and mentally stable, they have a right to vote unless they are currently serving a State or Federal prison sentence or currently on parole. To break it down further and simplify who can vote in county jails,  the following individuals are eligible to vote.

  • If a detainee is in county jail awaiting trial or on trial for any crime, for a misdemeanor conviction, for probation violation, for felony probation or for serving a jail sentence under Realignment (AB109), they can vote. 
  • Detainees who are not eligible to vote are those who are awaiting transfer to a state or federal prison for a felony conviction, a parole violation and/or serving in a state prison sentence under a contract with a county jail.  

If I’m eligible, what steps do I take to get more information about UTV?

If a detainee is eligible to vote, they can obtain helpful UTV materials and toolkit on how vote by contacting the ACLU Jails Project - Unlock the Vote, 1851 E. First Street, Suite 450, Santa Ana, CA 92705. 

Why vote?

Your right to vote is a civil right that is protected by the laws in our democracy. Unlike other countries in the world, you have a choice! Your actions and votes matter in electing the following: members of Congress and the Senate who writes the laws, the Governor who signs bills into law, Judges who interprets the law, the Sheriff who runs the county jails, the District Attorney who decides which criminal case to prosecute and guides sentencing and many other local offices. and Your vote can also affect local and state initiatives and bonds that can have a dramatic impact on our lives.

If you are incarcerated, we hope you are informed and inspired to act and vote in the November General Elections.  The ACLU Jails Project - Unlock the Vote appreciates receiving letters with  questions or comments like the above mentioned individual who vigorously values her civic right to vote. The writer concluded in her letter, “..thank you for providing me with the brochure and for restoring my right to vote. I can’t tell you how much this means to me.”

Gisele Nguyen-Gill, CEO, MBA, ACB, CL, is a writer, teacher, public speaker and business owner.

Give us Five! Support Our Job Search Guide


Check out this picture. Those are the last two copies of our job search guide from the first run of the guide. Since first printing the guide last year, we have sent 48 copies of the guide out into the world. Now we need your help to print more, so we can distribute it to more formerly incarcerated people. For every $5 donated, we are able to put one more guide into the hands of a formerly incarcerated person at no cost to them.

We love sharing this guide with the formerly incarcerated people we work with. It is packed with useful information on planning for a job search, where to look for jobs, how to prepare a resume, how to address criminal history during the hiring process, common interview questions and more. We use the guide with the clients we mentor and have also been handing it out to those who attend the monthly workshops we do in partnership with Working Alternatives, a residential program that helps people leaving federal prison transition back into their communities. Because the formerly incarcerated people we work with are unemployed, it is important that we provide the guide for free. That's where your donation helps. The updated version of the guide contains information on California's new fair chance hiring law and the state's ban on asking candidates about salary history.

Please donate today to help us print more copies of our guide. Five dollars goes a long way to set someone on the path to career success, which is a huge part of building a healthy and productive life following release from jail or prison.

Donate here. You have the option to make your donation recur monthly, which means you could provide a guide a month to a job seeker.

If you are an organization that would like to purchase copies of our guide for use with your clients, visit our store. If you are formerly incarcerated person who wants to request a copy of our guide, visit our Become a Client page.

Thank you for supporting Pacific Reentry Career Services and second chances.

Annual Report 2017


Dear Friends & Supporters:

This past year was a big year for Pacific Reentry Career Services. 2017 marked our first year serving clients and putting on employer outreach events. We started working with formerly incarcerated job seekers in the spring, and we developed and started distributing our Job Search Guide. We also held our first Fair Chance Hiring Summit for employers and service providers in June. This was followed up by a November summit that focused on the specific challenges faced by formerly incarcerated veterans. We had the opportunity to do several job search workshops in partnership with local groups and organizations that serve the reentry population in Orange County.

In 2018, we plan to continue working directly with formerly incarcerated job seekers and to continue advocating for fair chance hiring. By working with employers and encouraging them to hire this deserving population, we hope to open up more job opportunities for the reentry community as they work to build healthy and productive lives following release from jail and prison. Underlying all of our work is a strong belief in second chances.

As of January 1, 2018, California is now a fair chance hiring state. This means that employers cannot ask about criminal background until a conditional offer has been made. This will create more opportunities for formerly incarcerated people because they will no longer be judged based solely on their answer to the question about criminal background on job applications. Instead, they will have the opportunity to demonstrate that their experience, skills and education make them a good candidate. We are excited that California is leading the charge on giving formerly incarcerated people a fair chance at being considered for employment.

Thank you for being a part of our success in our first year offering programs and services. Pacific Reentry Career Services is currently an all-volunteer organization, so everything we do is a true labor of love. We look forward to continuing to support the Orange County reentry community in 2018!

Click here to download our full annual report.


Stephanie Hammerwold
Executive Director & Co-Founder

Fair Chance Hiring Summit: Focus on Formerly Incarcerated Veterans

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When we started Pacific Reentry Career Services, one of our goals was to be advocates for fair chance hiring so we could help open up job opportunities for the formerly incarcerated. We held our first Fair Chance Hiring Summit back in June. Out of conversations at that summit, we realized there was a need for summits that focus on specific populations within the reentry community, which is why our November summit focused on the employment challenges faced by formerly incarcerated veterans.

Cory Vigil shares his own story of being a formerly incarcerated veteran.

Cory Vigil shares his own story of being a formerly incarcerated veteran.

Stephanie Hammerwold, Pacific Reentry Career Services Executive Director, started things off at the November summit with an overview of fair chance hiring and the challenges faced by formerly incarcerated veteran. Hammerwold also mentioned that employers can benefit form the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) when hiring veterans, the formerly incarcerated and other hard-to-place job seekers. Next, Cory Vigil from the Working Wardrobes VetNet program. Vigil shared his own story about being a formerly incarcerated veteran and talked about the value of support services in helping formerly incarcerated veterans rebuild their lives.

Vigil was also part of a panel with Frank Fletcher and Agent Raj Talwar. Fletcher is the Local Veterans Employment Representative at the Santa Ana Cluster of the California Employment Development Department, and Talwar is a Parole Agent Supervisor with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The panel discussed the challenges faced by the formerly incarcerated veterans they work with and also explained why employers benefit when they hire this population. Veterans in general have strong teamwork skills and a good work ethic. When an employer hires a veteran, they are getting someone who is organized and disciplined. Just because a veteran has experienced incarceration, it does not mean that they have lost these abilities. By providing the necessary support services and opening up job opportunities, we help grow this skill set while also giving a formerly incarcerated veteran the chance at a stable income and meaningful work, which are important steps toward reentry success.

After a group discussion about formerly incarcerated veterans and fair chance hiring, Edward Clarke of Need4Bridges left attendees with some inspiring words. Clarke's organization mentors formerly incarcerated people as they rebuild their lives, and he underscored the importance of supporting this community if we are going to help reduce the chance that people will recidivate. This includes providing job opportunities.

Thank you to everyone who attended and to the Orange County One-Stop Center in Irvine for hosting our event and to the Orange County Re-Entry Partnership (OCREP) for supporting all our events. We look forward to continuing to provide educational opportunities that raise awareness about fair chance hiring. Watch our blog and subscribe to our newsletter to be the first to find out about upcoming events.

Thank you to Christopher Reeve Linares for the pictures included with this post.

Stephanie Hammerwold looks on as Edward Clarke (left) and Frank Fletcher (center) listen in to what other attendees are sharing.

Stephanie Hammerwold looks on as Edward Clarke (left) and Frank Fletcher (center) listen in to what other attendees are sharing.

Giving Tuesday Spotlight: Orange County Re-Entry Partnership

Join Pacific Reentry Career Services Executive Director & Co-Founder Stephanie Hammerwold in donating to OCREP for Giving Tuesday.

Join Pacific Reentry Career Services Executive Director & Co-Founder Stephanie Hammerwold in donating to OCREP for Giving Tuesday.

Wow! What a year! We just finished our second Fair Chance Hiring Summit (watch the blog for more on that next week), and we are already thinking about what we will do in 2018. We have so much to be thankful for during our first year providing direct services. As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends, we want to take a moment and give thanks for the Orange County Re-Entry Partnership (OCREP). We would not be where we are today without the support of this amazing organization.

OCREP is a network of organizations and people who support the reentry community. As a small organization focused on employment for the formerly incarcerated, we do not have the resources to help with all the needs of our clients, but we do have access to a diverse network of professionals ready to provide help with housing, addiction services, mental health services and more. Formerly incarcerated people often have multiple barriers, so sometimes it is necessary to work in partnership with other organizations to get the help they need.

Here are the top ten reasons why we think you should give to OCREP on Giving Tuesday:

  1. OCREP supports second chances, and so do we.
  2. We have formed a number of partnerships with people and organizations that have been able to help our clients with shelter, job training and other services.
  3. Reentry success depends on a supportive community, and OCREP fosters that kind of community in Orange County.
  4. OCREP has been a huge support as we launched our programs this year and helped us with both of our Fair Chance Hiring Summits.
  5. Two years ago, we went to our first OCREP general meeting when Pacific Reentry Career Services was just an idea, and we were welcomed with open arms.
  6. Speaking of general meetings, OCREP meetings are always educational and a good opportunity to visit with friends who support the reentry community.
  7. The OCREP email newsletter is your go-to source for all things reentry.
  8. The OCREP advisory committee is led by Director Meghan Medlin and is made up of some of the most amazing people you will meet in Orange County.
  9. OCREP puts on amazing events like the annual Reentry Resource Fair and the recent Opioid Awareness event.
  10. OCREP is a necessary part of the reentry community in Orange County.

Join us in donating to OCREP today. Happy Thanksgiving!

November Fair Chance Hiring Summit


When: Friday, November 17, 8:45-11 a.m.
Where: The Orange County One-Stop Center, 17891 Cartwright Rd. #200, Irvine, CA 92614
Cost: $25 per person, free for veterans and the formerly incarcerated

We are pleased to announce that we will be holding our second Fair Chance Hiring Summit on Friday, November 17. The Orange County One-Stop Center in Irvine will once again be hosting our summit at their office. The November summit will focus on the employment challenges faced by formerly incarcerated veterans and discuss ways that employers can support them in achieving success.

This event is designed for HR professionals, hiring managers and business owners. Attendees will leave with tips on implementing fair chance hiring policies in their workplace and learn about ways to engage with local service providers to provide employment to and support formerly incarcerated veterans in Orange County. A job can do a lot to help a formerly incarcerated veteran rebuild their lives, so it is important that employers do their part to help make this a reality.

Our speakers will include Cory Vigil from the VetNet program at Working Wardrobes; Frank Fletcher, the Local Veterans Employment Representative at America's Job Center of California at the Santa Ana W/O/R/K Center; Raj Talwar, a supervisor in the Anaheim Parole Office; Stephanie Hammerwold of Pacific Reentry Career Services; and Edward Clarke, the founder of Need4Bridges. We are working on adding additional speakers to our lineup.

This event would not be possible without the support of our friends at the Orange County Re-Entry Partnership (OCREP), Working Wardrobes, Need4Bridges and the Orange County One-Stop Center.

Job Search Guide Now Available

We are happy to announce that our job search guide is done and ready for distribution. We developed our job search guide to help support formerly incarcerated job seekers. This comprehensive guide includes a job search checklist, skills & experience assessment, tips on how to draft a conviction statement, sample resume, sample job application, monthly budget worksheet, common interview questions, advice for addressing criminal history in interviews and more.

This guide was developed by Pacific Reentry Career Services co-founders Stephanie Hammerwold and Tim Pershing. Stephanie drew from more than a decade working in human resources to create this guide.

If you are a service provider and would like to order copies of our guide to use with your clients, visit our online store. Guides are $10 each.

All of our job search clients will receive a copy of the guide for free. If you are a formerly incarcerated individual and want to find out more about how to get the guide, get in touch through our Become a Client page.

Fair Chance Hiring Summit

Our employment success stories panelists share their experience with fair chance hiring

Our employment success stories panelists share their experience with fair chance hiring

We held our first Fair Chance Hiring Summit last week on June 7, 2017. We had a mix of employers and service providers in attendance to discuss the benefits of hiring the formerly incarcerated. The summit is the first of many employer events we plan to hold in the Orange County area.

We developed the summit as part of our employer outreach efforts. Reentry success depends on having a supportive community. This includes having employers who use fair chance hiring practices that give the formerly incarcerated a second chance. The summit included a presentation on fair chance hiring and reentry by Stephanie Hammerwold, the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Pacific Reentry Career Services. Jeffrey Malek of Malek & Malek presented on hiring best practices and background checks.

Reentry success depends on having a supportive community. This includes having employers who use fair chance hiring practices that give the formerly incarcerated a second chance.

Our employment success stories panel featured Quinton Hamilton of Higher Level Processing, Inc., Dean Bramlett of Crown Ace Hardware and Meghan Medlin of Taller San Jose Hope Builders. All three panelists made a strong case for hiring the reentry population. Bramlett shared stories of employees she hired who had a record and went on to have longevity at her company. Because the formerly incarcerated often have to work hard to land a job, they have a strong understanding of the value of that job and can end up being some of the most loyal employees. Hamilton's experience matched Bramlett's, and he offered examples of times he helped reentry employees find simple solutions to things like transportation to work. Often all it takes is small actions of supporting and believing in reentry employees to help them achieve employment success.

The event culminated in breakout groups where attendees had a chance to share questions, concerns and feedback about hiring the formerly incarcerated. We will be compiling this information into a report to share with attendees and the reentry service providers in an effort to foster strong connections between employers and job seekers.

We want to give a big thank you the Orange County Re-Entry Partnership (OCREP) for supporting our summit and special thanks to OCREP Director Meghan Medlin of Taller San Jose Hope Builders and OCREP Assistant Director Ashley Baribeault-Vlcan of Working Wardrobes. Thanks also to the Orange County One-Stop Center in Irvine and Matthew Macauley for providing the space for our summit. Thanks to the Orange County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce for helping promote the event, and thanks to Rosemary Touyanou for being at our summit to share information on Santiago Canyon College's free classes.

Stay tuned to our blog for more information from the summit, and mark your calendar for Tuesday, July 11 at 3 p.m. for the OCREP general meeting where we will review our findings for the summit and talk about how we can better prepare formerly incarcerated job seekers for employment success.

Orange County's 3rd Annual Re-Entry Resource Fair--June 13

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Orange County's 3rd Annual Re-Entry Resource Fair is scheduled for June 13 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Honda Center in Anaheim. This free event is put on by the Orange County Re-Entry Partnership (OCREP) and other reentry service providers in Orange County. We are expecting nearly 60 vendors that cover a wide variety of services for formerly incarcerated people.

Pacific Reentry Career Services will be on site to provide resume review and career coaching. Be sure to stop by our table to say hi and to learn how we can help you prepare for career success.

See you there!

Pacific Reentry Career Services News

We are continuing to work hard to get our programs off the ground and to spread the word about the benefits of employing those in the reentry community. This means putting on events and participating in activities that foster strong connections between the formerly incarcerated and members of the community who can support successful reentry following release from jail or prison. Success depends on a community of service providers, employers, friends and family and more, and we have been keeping ourselves busy in doing our part to support employment for the reentry community in Orange County.

Fair Chance Hiring Summit

Our first Fair Chance Hiring Summit is coming up on June 7 in Irvine. This event will bring together employers, HR professionals and hiring managers to learn more about hiring the formerly incarcerated and how to implement fair chance hiring practices in the workplace. We hope to do more events like this in the future and are planning opportunities that bring together job seekers and employers. This event is free, but space is limited, so be sure to register soon.

Orange County's 3rd Annual Reentry Resource Fair

We are excited to be involved in this year's Reentry Resource Fair, which will be held on June 13 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Honda Center (2695 E. Katella Ave., Anaheim). This fair is put on by the Orange County Re-Entry Partnership (OCREP) with the support of many local agencies and individuals. The fair will bring together agencies, employers and other service providers that are ready to help formerly incarcerated people and their families. Pacific Reentry Career Services will be there to offer resume critiques and job search coaching. Be sure to come by our table and say hi.

Involvement with OCREP

Speaking of OCREP, we continue to be thankful for our involvement with this amazing group that is working to bring together a variety of people and organizations that assist the formerly incarcerated in Orange County. Stephanie Hammerwold, the Pacific Reentry Career Services Executive Director, was recently named treasurer of the OCREP advisory committee. We look forward to continuing our involvement with OCREP as we work to build a strong reentry community in Orange County.

Speaking to College Students

Stephanie Hammerwold recently spoke to a Chicano and Latino Studies class at Cal State Long Beach with Ashley Baribeault-Vlcan from Working Wardrobes. Ashley is also the assistant director of OCREP. Stephanie and Ashley spoke to Professor Maythee Rojas's class about the reentry community in Orange County as well as the work OCREP, Working Wardrobes and Pacific Reentry Career Services are doing.

Job Search Guide Fundraiser

We are still working to raise money to print our Job Search Guide. Your donation to this campaign will help get our guide into the hands of formerly incarcerated job seekers. Donate soon so that your name can be listed on our acknowledgement page in the guide.

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Don't miss out on the latest Pacific Reentry Career Services news. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter for all the latest updates.

Sponsor Our Job Search Guide

Pacific Reentry Career Services is committed to helping formerly incarcerated women find meaningful employment. We are also dedicated to supporting the reentry community by providing resources and advocating for fair chance hiring.

We have created a Job Search Guide as a resource for formerly incarcerated job seekers. The guide will be provided free of charge to the women in our mentorship program and to other formerly incarcerated job seekers that participate in our workshops or reach out to us for assistance.

By donating to this campaign, you will help offset the printing expense of our 2017 Job Search Guide. Each booklet costs approximately $3.60 to print.

The Job Search Guide is 28-page tool that helps our clients understand the job search process, make career plans, create resumes, learn about completing applications, prepare for interviews and to create a plan for post-release employment success.

Your name will also be printed on a recognition page inside so they know that they are being supported by people in their community and beyond.

Your donation will go a long way in assisting formerly incarcerated individuals in building successful lives.

Visit our GoFundMe page to sponsor the Job Search Guide!

Upcoming Events


Things are busy at Pacific Reentry Career Services, and we have been hard at work launching programs and helping support the reentry community. We have begun working with clients, are planning for our first Fair Chance Hiring Summit and making important connections that we hope will lead to successful opportunities for the job seekers we serve. We wanted to take a moment to share information on some upcoming events.

Fair Chance Hiring Summit
Wednesday, June 7, 9 a.m.-12 p.m. • Irvine One-Stop Career Center

This summit is a chance for employers to learn more about the benefits of hiring the formerly incarcerated. We will have a presentation on background checks and hiring best practices by Attorney Jeffrey Malek of Malek & Malek, a panel with employers who have had success with fair chance hiring and breakout groups for attendees to share their questions and experiences. This event is ideal for HR professionals, hiring managers and business owners. The summit is free, but space is limited, so registration is required. Visit our summit page for more information and to register.

Orange County's 3rd Annual Re-Entry Resource Fair
Tuesday, June 13, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. • Honda Center, 2695 E. Katella Ave., Anaheim

This event is put on by the Orange County Re-Entry Partnership (OCREP). The resource fair will include community resources, education opportunities and more. This is an excellent opportunity to learn about the programs and services that support the formerly incarcerated in our community. All formerly incarcerated people and their families are welcome to attend this free event. Please do not bring children. For more information or to participate as a vendor, contact OCREP at 657-859-9444 or We will be there, and we hope to see you there too.

Stay tuned to our blog for more updates, and be sure to subscribe to our newsletter to get all the latest news on Pacific Reentry Career Services.

Resources for Children of Incarcerated Parents

According to a report by the Pew Charitable Trusts, 2.7 million children in the U.S. have an incarcerated parents. This accounts for 1 out of every 28 children, which is up from 1 in 125 children in the mid-1980s. The report states that having a parent incarcerated hurts children educationally and financially. The Bureau of Justice Statistics found that 52% of state inmates and 63% of federal inmates have minor children.

Incarceration splits up families, so it is important that we talk about the effect it has on children and not just on the individual serving time. Children of incarcerated parents may experience anxiety, depression, traumatic stress, survivor guilt and other behavior issues. They may have trouble with sleep and difficulty concentrating.

Last December, Pacific Reentry Career Services attended "Children of Incarcerated Parents: Trauma, Toxic Stress and Protections, the 2016 summit put on by Friends Outside of Los Angeles County. The event helped shine a light on the necessity of recognizing the effects of incarceration on children whose parents are locked up. While our work here at Pacific Reentry Career Services focuses on helping clients find employment following release, we also recognize that supporting families is an important part of our work for anyone in the reentry field. Many of those released are parents, and having a stable job with a steady income is an important part of supporting a family. For those supporting children, we have listed some useful resources below.

Families & Criminal Justice
The mission of Families & Criminal Justice is the prevention of intergenerational crime and incarceration. Families & Criminal Justice is based in Los Angeles and has programs for incarcerated parents as well as for the children of incarcerated parents. Their website includes a useful list of publications for those wanting to read more on the effects of incarceration on families.

Friends Outside of Los Angles County
Friends Outside provides no-cost services in English and Spanish. They have a number of programs that include family communication support, family events, support groups, transportation assistance and more. They can also help coordinate supervised visits between qualifying incarcerated parents and their children who have an open case with the Department of Children and Family Services, and they prepare children and their caregivers for visits.

POPS The Club
POPS The Club started at Venice High School in 2013 and has since expanded to other schools in California and Minnesota. This organization establishes clubs for high school students experiencing the Pain of Our Prison System (POPS) through having an incarcerated parent. The clubs provide emotional and community support for participants. They also publish the writing and artwork of participants. Plans are in the works to start clubs at more schools.

Root & Rebound "Family & Children Toolkit"
Root & Rebound recently released their "Family & Children Toolkit: A Primer for Families Supporting their Loved One's Reentry." This guide goes through things friends and families can do to help their loved one before and after release. There are also tips for rebuilding relationships following release, information on family reunification and details about how therapy can help.

Sesame Streets Toolkit for Young Children
Sesame Street has created an excellent resource for young children of incarcerated parents. The kit includes a DVD and booklet for children, and it includes information for caregivers on how to talk to young children about incarceration. The materials are in both English and Spanish.

If your organization supports the children of incarcerated parents, and you would like to be listed here, please contact us.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

If you are not subscribed to our email newsletter, here are some of the things you missed in the first edition:

  • An update on the recent "Reimagining Reentry" fundraiser put on by our friends at OCREP
  • A link to board member Jenni Buchanan's recent article about Linda Offray of Shepherd's Door
  • News about our upcoming Fair Chance Hiring Summit on June 7 at 9 a.m. at the Irvine One-Stop Career Center

Be sure to subscribe, so you don't miss out on updates from Pacific Reentry Career Services as well as information about our June 7 Fair Chance Hiring Summit in Irvine.

Fair Chance Hiring Summits

UPDATE: Our first Fair Chance Hiring Summit is scheduled for June 7, 2017 at the One-Stop Center in Irvine, CA. For more information and to register for this free event, please see our summit page.

There are many myths about hiring those with a criminal record, and this creates significant barriers for job seekers. At Pacific Reentry Career Services, one of our goals is to help break down these myths and to support employers in hiring the formerly incarcerated. Later this year we hope to start the conversation with employers by launching our Fair Chance Hiring Summits.

What is a Fair Chance Hiring Summit?

We have attended a number of reentry events and meetings since making the decision to found Pacific Reentry Career Services. One thing we noticed is that it is a challenge to get employers to the table when discussing the hiring of formerly incarcerated individuals. Employers are an important part of the community and a key part of helping people rebuild their lives following release from jail or prison, so it is important that we include them in the conversation.

The Fair Chance Hiring Summits are designed to provide a forum for employers to learn the advantages, challenges and rewards of hiring the formerly incarcerated. There will be plenty of time for questions and brainstorming, and attendees will also take away information on programs like the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, Federal Bonding and community resources. Attendees will leave with specific actions they can take to implement fair chance hiring practices in their workplaces.

Employers will also have the chance to talk to service providers who work with the reentry community, employers who have had success with fair chance hiring and members of the reentry community.

Who Should Attend?

The summits are ideal for business owners, HR professionals and those that oversee hiring for their company. We also welcome employers who have had success hiring the formerly incarcerated, so they can share their experiences with other employers. This is also a good event for formerly incarcerated people who have an employment success story and advice they want to share with employers.

How Can Employers Get Involved?

The first Fair Chance Hiring Summit will be later this year in Orange County. Stay tuned to our blog for information on date, time and location. If you are interested in participating in or hosting an upcoming summit, please use our contact form to get in touch with us.

Can Service Providers Participate?

Yes, service providers are welcome to attend. This includes organizations that work with the reentry population on securing employment and those who work in parole and probation. One of our goals is to foster connections between those working with formerly incarcerated job seekers with employers.

Are Job Seekers Welcome to Attend?

This is not a hiring event, so it would not be ideal for job seekers to attend. We will be planning hiring events in the future that will bring fair chance employers and job seekers together, so we encourage you to stay tuned to our blog for more information about upcoming events.

Remember to check our blog regularly and sign up for our newsletter for updates on Fair Chance Hiring Summits and other events.

The Pathway to Safety

An Interview with Linda Offray, Executive Director of Shepherd’s Door

By Jenni Buchanan

 Anyone who has ever been in the business of helping others knows that we don’t do it alone. We live in an interconnected web of society, each of our individual strands touches thousands of others in subtle and obvious ways. Shepherd’s Door, the Domestic Violence Resource Center in Pasadena, California, is a strand on the web that we recently found is closely aligned to what we here at Pacific Reentry Career Services are trying to do. Incarceration and domestic violence often live in the same neighborhood (so to speak); and in the interest of discovering where our two organizations intersect, and how we might support each other's work, we spent some time talking to Linda Offray, Founder and Executive Director of Shepherd’s Door. She spoke to us not only about Shepherd’s Door and the services they offer, but also about her very personal experience with domestic violence, the difficult process of getting a nonprofit through its first years, and why she never gave up. 

How long has Shepherd’s Door been around, and what initially inspired you to launch it?

Shepherd’s Door has been around since 2000. My daughter was a victim of teen dating violence; it was her experience, and then not being able to find resources to help at the time, being angry and upset that my daughter was being misused--all that prompted me to say “I have to do something to help and educate women!”

For 10 years I worked with the City of Pasadena in a pregnancy and parenting program, and it was there that I found out that domestic violence was so prevalent in our community and the home of many of the women I was the case manager for.  Doing social work like that often required me to make home visits, and when you go in the home of a person you begin to see things. I realized how serious domestic violence was in our community. Even what we think of as very successful households. Domestic violence knows no class boundaries, religion, economic status, ethnicity or even gender, It’s prevalent in all communities.

What was the most challenging aspect of getting Shepherd’s Door started?

The paperwork. Getting funding. Finding volunteers. All these things!

It was a lot of work, and I did it all on my own at the beginning. I could not find anyone who was willing to work with me starting from the ground for free. It’s sad to put it that way, but we had no money starting out. People have their own expenses and responsibilities and they want--and deserve--to be paid, but we had no money. So finding volunteers was one of my biggest challenges. It takes a lot of work and dedication, and the person doing it needs to have a passion, especially if they are not going to get paid at first. I couldn’t find anyone with my same level of passion. I found a lot people who cared about the issue, had concerns and a desire to help, but no one would commit to helping me get Shepherd’s Door off the ground.

Shepherd’s Door is not just for female victims of domestic violence, correct? What can you tell me about the demographic of people who come to your organization?

We predominantly work with females. In my 20 years I’ve only had 2 men come to me and admit that they were being abused. 99% of our clients are women. 

I would say 50% are Latina, 30% African American, 15% Caucasian and 5% Asian. The age range is between 21 and 60 years of age. We had a recent intake who was 62, she came to us after 47 years of abuse. Income level is predominantly low-income, but some women are very successful.

We offer the women who come to us a range of services, regardless of their age or demographic, including domestic violence counseling and support groups. We just want to help with whatever they need in the moment. We are proud of every victim that comes to us seeking help; it is the first step to recovery.  Even though there are many survivors of domestic violence, there’s that effect of abuse that will be with them forever. But they learn how to live with it and move on. That's what Shepherd’s Door gives them: support forever.

We are proud of every victim that comes to us seeking help; it is the first step to recovery.
— Linda Offray

Let’s talk about the intersection between Pacific Reentry Career Services and Shepherd’s Door. For victims of domestic violence, how large a shadow does prison or the criminal justice system throw?

Out of the 20 years I’ve been working with women, I've known 2 ladies who’ve been willing to share with me that they have done prison time for killing their abuser, although I couldn’t get them to talk too much about it at the time. But I know several women who have gone to jail because of domestic violence. In a situation where a person is being abused, and the victim finally fights back, the abuser will sometimes be the one to call the police. In these cases, if the victim left any cuts or bruises or marks as they have fought back, then the victims will go to jail for defending themselves. It may only be for a few days or weeks, but nevertheless, that's their encounter with the system.

But there’s a whole other challenge with the legal system once a victim leaves their abuser, many abusers will now start using the system against the victim. The abusers turn around and serve the victims with custody papers after the women leave. They sue for joint or full custody. The abuser (who is often the male head-of-household and breadwinner) is able to afford legal representation, while the victim is unable able to afford to hire an attorney to fight back.

So there are many levels of conflict with the legal or criminal justice system. One of our biggest needs is raising the funds to help victims with legal representation, legal advice, answering of court papers served, filling out legal documents, etc. No one on the Shepherd’s Door team is currently a legal professional, so we are in need of a family law attorney who would be willing to come on board with Shepherd’s Door to volunteer 3-5 hours a month. Anything can be a help to the victim.  We can give women recommendations and referrals, but many of the victims cannot  afford to hire someone even to help them fill out paperwork. Helping victims afford legal representation, and helping them find shelter, are two of our biggest challenges.

The workshops are together with both boys and girls. We feel they should get the same information together. It is important to teach men and women together if we want to break the cycle.
— Linda Offray

Prevention Education is part of the mission of Shepherd’s Door; is this a challenge? Are adolescents and high schoolers your target audience? Do you find them generally receptive?

Oh yes! We work with Pasadena Unified School District. We do workshops on healthy relationships vs. unhealthy relationships, to middle and high school students. The workshops are together with both boys and girls. We feel they should get the same information together. It is important to teach men and women together if we want to break the cycle. Shepherd’s Door has been going into the schools for six years, and we love it!  In 2015-2016 we were able to impart knowledge about relationships to over 800 students. As for reception, the students are awesome! Participation level is great. The students get involved, they ask a lot of questions, and we get a lot of good responses on the evaluations they fill out at the end. One 8th grader last year wrote in an evaluation, “I’ve learned in this class that I’m in a violent relationship. As of today I’m going to leave my boyfriend.” And another young man said, “Thank you for coming and teaching this. My dad used to beat my mother, and I don’t want to be like my dad.”

At the end of the class I always ask how many of them know someone who is a victim of domestic violence, or are victims of domestic violence themselves, and a majority of the students raise their hands.

The education program was very hard when I first started, many times I’ve done presentations and had young ladies sitting before me with tears rolling down their faces. I have had to keep my composure, I always know who in the group is being affected by what I am teaching. I know by the expressions on their faces, by the way they react. I’ve gotten terribly sad looks, and I’ve gotten some looks that simply “I don’t care what you say.” So I make sure to bring it home that none of them have the right to put their hands on each other in violence.

What is the biggest challenge Shepherd’s Door finds itself facing today?

Getting funding. We need funding to help victims get legal help. We need funding to help provide them with shelter and clothing, because most of these victims leave their abusive situation and come to us with nothing.

We need funding merely to sustain where we are. Over the years many domestic violence programs have had to close down due to lack of funding. We lost 9 programs/shelters when the economy took a turn 2008, and almost none of them were able to come back.

We can’t afford to lose these programs. The truth is that for whatever reason, we’ve seen a sharp increase of domestic violence in the past 5 or 6 months. This is nationwide! We don't know why, or what the cause is, but those are the facts. We have a huge problem when abuse is on the rise, and victims cannot get the services they need due to lack of funds.

How can people who read this help Shepherd’s Door?

First of all, refer people in need to us so we can help.

Next, promote Shepherd’s Door to everyone you know, and support the cause! Donate through our website.

People with expertise can volunteer to teach support groups. You can take a domestic violence counseling class and learn how to counsel. (We provide these training classes.) We are starting a mentoring program in hopes of the support victims of domestic violence need. We will be seeking mentors.

And finally, organize a fundraiser. I’m always looking for good fundraisers!

Jenni Buchanan is a reader, freelance writer & online community manager. She is a member of the board of directors for Pacific Reentry Career Services and for One Spark Academy. When not working, Jenni is a philosopher, hiker, nature-lover, and story addict. You can follow her on Twitter at @JenniBuchanan.

What is Fair Chance Hiring?

Simply having a criminal record should not be enough to keep someone from being hired. Fair chance hiring refers to policies that help those with a criminal record find jobs they are qualified for. This can include removing the question about criminal convictions from job applications (also called “Ban the Box”), moving questions about criminal record to later in the hiring process and only asking about criminal record when it is relevant to the job.

Here at Pacific Reentry Career we are committed to educating employers on the benefits of hiring the reentry population. With that in mind, we have addressed some of the most common questions we have heard about fair chance hiring, and we have included links to useful fair chance hiring resources throughout this article.

How does fair chance hiring benefit employers?
One in three Americans has a criminal record. If employers automatically reject these job seekers, they are missing out on a large number of qualified applicants. Many people with criminal records are qualified and ready to work.

How does fair chance hiring benefit formerly incarcerated job seekers?
Getting a good job with a steady income is a huge step in rebuilding a life following incarceration. It can help reduce recidivism, secure housing and help to reunite families. Often checking yes to the job application question about criminal record can automatically land someone in the reject pile. By moving the question about criminal background to later in the process (or not asking it at all if it is not relevant to the job), formerly incarcerated job seekers can be evaluated based on work history, education and other job qualifications, which gives them a fair shot at landing a good job. Their criminal record no longer becomes an automatic rejection.

Does fair chance hiring mean I should never ask about criminal background?
You can still ask about criminal background if you practice fair chance hiring, but you should evaluate when in the process you look at criminal background. The simplest thing is to remove the question about criminal background from your job application and to ask about it once a conditional offer has been made if it is relevant to the job. This gives job seekers a chance to be evaluated on qualifications without having a criminal record unfairly bias a hiring manager against them. For some jobs, you may want to do away with the question all together.

What is the EEOC guidance on the use of criminal background checks in hiring?
In 2012, the EEOC issued guidance on the use of criminal background checks in hiring. The EEOC’s guidance comes from the fact that certain racial and ethnic groups experience higher rates of incarceration and may therefore face barriers to employment. This may lead to discriminatory hiring practices. The EEOC’s guidance encourages employers to only look into an applicant’s criminal background if it is relevant to the job. This is not law, but it is a good place for employers to start when figuring out how to change their hiring process so it does not create unfair biases against people with records. Click on the link at the beginning of this answer or visit the EEOC’s information page for more information on the guidance.

What if I want to use a background company to review criminal records of potential hires?
There are federal and state laws that govern the use of background check companies. Root & Rebound’s “California Employers’ Fair Chance Hiring Toolkit” offers detailed information on the requirements for California employers. If you are thinking about employing a background check company, it is best to consult with an employment attorney to make sure your process fits within the legal requirements.

Are there ways I can protect my business if I do end up making a bad hire?
Many people with criminal records go on to live productive lives following release from jail or prison. The U.S. Department of Labor established the Federal Bonding program in 1966 to provide fidelity bonds to cover at-risk, hard-to-place job seekers. This includes formerly incarcerated individuals. This program is free for employers and employees and covers the first six months of employment. For more information, visitthe Federal Bonding Program website or contact your local EDD office in California. Keep in mind that only about 1% of these bonds are ever claimed, so those covered by bonds have had a high success rate with employers.

Are there any tax benefits for hiring formerly incarcerated people?
The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) is a federal program that provides a tax incentive to employers who hire people from difficult-to-employ groups, which includes the formerly incarcerated. You can learn more about WOTC on the Department of Labor’s website. California offers additional incentives to employers in designated geographical areas. For more information on the California incentive, visit the Franchise Tax Board’s site.

What can I do to show that my business supports fair chance hiring?
Visit the Dave's Killer Bread website to take the Second Chance Pledge to show that you are committed to removing barriers to employment for the formerly incarcerated. Train hiring managers to make fair decisions regarding candidates with criminal records, support community programs that help the formerly incarcerated find employment and spread the word about the benefits of hiring the reentry population.

This article is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. It is always a good idea to check with an employment attorney before making changes to your hiring process and to ensure that your hiring practices are legal and fit within the requirements of the law for your location.

Get Involved with Pacific Reentry Career Services

A new year often means creating resolutions, setting goals and making plans for positive changes in our lives. For Pacific Reentry Career Services, 2017 means the launch of several exciting programs that we have been working hard on in the past year. We are looking forward to helping those leaving jail or prison in their quest to create happy, healthy and productive lives following release. Of course, success for the reentry community requires support from communities, which is why we encourage you to support our programs in one of the ways listed below.

Go Shopping

For those of you that shop on Amazon, there is an easy way to support Pacific Reentry Career Services. Next time you head to Amazon to shop, use AmazonSmile and designate Pacific Reentry Career Services as the charity you want to support. Then make sure to use the AmazonSmile link every time you shop in the future. Amazon will donate 0.5% of the price of your eligible purchases to Pacific Reentry Career Services. It is simple, and there is no extra cost to you.


We are getting ready to launch our mentorship program and are looking for business professionals in the Los Angeles and Orange County area who want to mentor formerly incarcerated women during their job search and early months of employment. We are also looking for volunteers who want to help out at job search workshops, employer summits and other events. Visit our Get Involved page and fill out the interest form at the bottom if you would like to volunteer with Pacific Reentry Career Services.

Host an Employer Summit or Job Seeker Workshop

If you have a business that would like to get involved in spreading the word about the benefits of hiring the formerly incarcerated, we would love to partner with you in putting on employer summits. Employer summits bring together hiring managers and business professionals to discuss the benefits and challenges of hiring the formerly incarcerated. It is our goal to open up the conversation about hiring this population, to break down myths and to encourage employers to give a fair chance to job seekers with criminal records. Not only is hiring the formerly incarcerated good for communities, but there are also tax incentives like the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC). We are also looking for businesses and service providers who want to provide space for us to hold job seeker workshops for formerly incarcerated individuals. Use the contact form on our Get Involved page to submit your interest.


We rely on the generous support of donors to help fund our programs. Donating to Pacific Reentry Career Services is easy. Click here to go straight to our donation page or click on the Donate button throughout our website. Every dollar helps support programs that get formerly incarcerated people back to work. Remember that Pacific Reentry Career Services has tax-exempt status under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Service Code. Contributions made to Pacific Reentry Career Services are tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.

Thank you for your support! Happy New Year!