AP NEWS

Report: Oklahomans accused of crimes face hiring barriers

March 3, 2019

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Oklahomans who have been charged, convicted or incarcerated for a crime face barriers to finding a job and their jobless rate is five times higher than the general population, according to a new workforce report.

The report says about 8 percent of Oklahomans have been involved with the justice system and up to 75 percent of them are unemployed, the Tulsa World reported .

“We have plenty of jobs going unfilled and not enough people to fill them,” said Shelley Cadamy, executive director of Workforce Tulsa. “It becomes clear that this is a pocket of people that could easily get ready for work and into jobs.”

A majority of companies in the Tulsa area are struggling to fill jobs, but many Oklahomans with criminal records can’t get a job because of discrimination by employers, occupational licensing restrictions, past-due child support and housing barriers, according to the report released by Workforce Tulsa and the University of Tulsa College Of Law’s Lobeck Taylor Community Advocacy Clinic

“Our growth and our ability to thrive as a community is completely dependent on the attraction, retention and development of a strong workforce,” said Martha Webb-Jones, director of human resources at Spirit AeroSystems and chairwoman of the Workforce Tulsa board.

University of Tulsa President Dr. Gerard Clancy said part of the solution is better policies and practices. Among other things, the report recommends streamlining the expungement process, reforming the occupational licensing system, educating the justice involved on child support modifications and establishing risk-mitigation funds for landlords.

“If followed, the report’s recommendations would create more resilient families, reduce Oklahoma’s huge prison population and infuse millions of dollars into our cities and state’s economy by getting those who can work to work,” Clancy said.