HANO proposes policy change regarding felons - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

HANO proposes policy change regarding felons

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New Orleans, La - The Housing Authority of New Orleans defended a proposal that would make sure convicted felons aren't always turned away, but not everyone is sold on the plan.

HANO held a public hearing Tuesday evening. The proposed policy statement reads as follows:

"It shall therefore be the policy of HANO that all individuals, regardless of their criminal history, shall have equal access to employment and housing opportunities at HANO. No potential employee or applicant will be automatically barred from employment or housing at HANO unless it is determined that: 1) they pose a clear and present danger to the workplace or the community in which they might live, 2) the criminal history includes acts of child abuse or sexual predation, or 3) there is history of domestic violence. If, upon initial examination of an application for employment or admission, a reviewer determines that further investigation is required for Category 1 applicants, a panel will evaluate all factors presented to determine that individual's suitability for employment or housing. All potential employees or residents shall have the opportunity to provide an information that they wish to the panel to demonstrate that they will be productive members of the workplace or the community. Decisions will be based on the panel's determination of whether or not that individual has a propensity for continued disruptive or criminal behavior that will be detrimental to the work place or to the residential community in which they seek to live, or whether factors indicate a reasonable probability of favorable future conduct. Applicants with Category 2 and Category 3 histories will not be considered.

Further, HANO will require that anyone who wants to do business with HANO, whether as a contractor, consultant, or landlord, shall also adopt this policy."

Dolfinette Martin was among those to speak during the Tuesday evening public hearing.

"I was recently released from incarceration," she explained.

She says she spent more than seven years in jail. During that time she went to school. Since her release eight months ago, she's found housing and a job.

"They didn't care about my background because they looked at what I've done," she said while holding up her resume'.

Many at the public hearing are hoping HANO's policy will be to look at the positive things convicted felons have done since their conviction and take that into consideration when it comes to applications for housing and employment.

"The intent here is to remove HANO from the lengthy list of housers and employers that will not or do not allow felons," explained HANO Board Chairman David Gilmore.

The proposed policy would give a HANO panel the ability to evaluate each case of a convicted felon and allow them to submit information to the panel. However, convicted sexual predators and those convicted of child abuse and domestic violence would be disqualified.

As it's written now, members of the grassroots organization Stand with Dignity, say it's too vague and excludes too many people.

"We have the highest incarceration rate in the world and that's a form of locking us out as a people," said Alfred Marshall with Stand with Dignity. "We have people who go apply for jobs and they fear what they got on their application, like are you a convicted felon? Those kinds of things we go in with fear."

Gilmore said much of that type of fear is perceived and not reality. He says that's why there's a need for change. "We think that we need to communicate to the world at large that is not how we do business here."

 Again, the proposal is a policy statement. The procedural details haven't been determined. When that time comes, people like Dolfinette Martin are hoping HANO considers stories like hers.

"For me, my thinking changed so my actions had to change," said Martin. "But people cared enough to help me when I got out and I'm asking that you care enough to help people out."

If you would like to submit suggestions or comments regarding the proposed policy statement, HANO will be taking written comments and emails through February 5th.

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