Remarks by La Shawn K. Ford at a press conference to announce the “Expanding Employment Opportunities for Ex-offenders” advisory referendum:

“We are here to inform you of an advisory referendum that will be on the ballot on March 21. It is hard to go a day without being approached by some man or woman who wants nothing more than to just get a job so they can feed their children. This should not be surprising if one considers that approximately 3,000 people in Austin return from the Illinois Department of Corrections, and 1,500-2,000 return to Garfield Park and North Lawndale.

“Just like in my own family, some have made mistakes and are now apart of the justice system. These mistake seems to reduce people to less than a citizen because jobs are not available to them. When jobs are not available, our community then becomes a place where drugs, crime, teenage dropouts, and diseases become our main fight and struggle.

“I truly believe that if individuals are able to gain employment, they will be better citizens and better parents. The communities will improve because more children will go to college, and drugs, diseases and other problems will be reduced so that we can enjoy more of what life has to offer.

“If you agree that we should provide more jobs, then now is the time to make it happen. Tell someone to vote yes for the advisory referendum on March 21.

“The referendum reads: ‘Shall municipal, county and state governments pass laws to make more job opportunities available for non-violent ex-offenders, a reasonable amount of time after they have completed any sentence, by eliminating non-violent criminal background questions applicable to them on employment applications?’

“We believe that if the public sector agrees to help more people, then the private sector will follow. The City of Chicago, the State of Illinois, and Cook County have a question regarding criminal backgrounds on their employment applications. The federal government does not.

“The public sector needs to erase the barriers that prevent people from getting jobs. I am not suggesting that we should give special treatment to people with criminal backgrounds. The referendum simply suggests that we should even the playing field by providing equal access and opportunity for reformed people. We want people to at least get an interview.”