FROM SYSTEMS’ CHAINS TO SYSTEM CHANGE

Advocacy Through Policy & Systems Reform

The law has long been used as a weapon to harm, control, and disenfranchise low-income communities and communities of color. Far too many members of these communities have been locked into poverty and second-class citizenship for generations.

Root & Rebound not only directly supports those who have been most harmed, but seeks to disrupt the system at its core.

To do this, our team is taking on some of the most difficult policy reform campaigns and litigation alongside directly impacted people. Together, through a radical approach to lawyering that combines multiple advocacy strategies, we are changing the way the law can be used by impacted people. Our successes prove that law and policy can be a powerful tool for racial and social equity and empowerment.

OUR POLICY GOALS

Root & Rebound advances policies that:

  • Elevate the lived experiences of people most harmed by the criminal justice system;

  • Combat poverty, racism, mass criminalization and other forms of control and oppression;

  • Eliminate the devastating lifelong consequences of an arrest or conviction;

  • Broaden protections, rights, dignity and opportunities of systems-impacted people;

  • Build thriving communities that all people can participate in equally.

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CURRENT REFORM CAMPAIGNS

Each year, we select policy objectives that are urgent and will produce immediate outcomes for impacted people, while also rallying support for longer-term, more entrenched barriers. Our current campaigns include:

  • Debt-Free Justice: We are advocating for CA SB 144 to end administrative fees imposed against people in the criminal justice system, dramatically reducing the suffering caused by court-ordered debt and enhancing the economic security of system-involved populations.

  • Fair Chance Hiring: We are enforcing the California Fair Chance Act, which delays when employers can ask about a person’s conviction history until after a conditional offer of employment, by educating employers and bringing litigation to ensure the law is followed.

  • Fair Housing for All: We are supporting local efforts in both Northern CA (Alameda County) and Southern California (City of Adelanto) to pass Fair Chance Housing laws that will reduce discrimination against people because of their conviction history.

  • Access to Caregiving Jobs: We are co-sponsoring CA AB 1608, which creates a fair chance for people with arrest and conviction records to access caregiving and other jobs governed by the Department of Social Services, heavily impacting women of color with records who are the majority of applicants being denied these positions under the current law.

RECENT SUCCESSES

  • Occupational Licensing Reform: R&R mobilized a coalition of over 50 partner groups— including directly impacted people, advocates, service providers, employers, and government agencies— to pass CA AB 2138, making the state professional licensing process fairer for people with records, and ensuring that old and irrelevant convictions are not a barrier to meaningful careers.

    “I feel like I can breathe again” said Maria, a client who got her occupational license and clearance to work in a childcare facility back, after being conditionally denied the license for a 14-year-old conviction.

  • Strengthening California’s Pardons Process: R&R co-sponsored CA AB 2845 to make needed reforms to California’s pardons and commutations process to improve transparency and accessibility, with a focus on preventing the deportation of immigrants with conviction records.

  • Justice & Employment Opportunities for California’s Currently and Formerly Incarcerated Firefighters: R&R co-sponsored CA AB 2293, which requires EMT boards in California to collect and report data about the demographics and denial rates of applicants with criminal records. We are now co-sponsoring a companion two-year bill, CA AB 1211, to reform outdated EMT laws that ban most people with records from becoming county firefighters, even when they worked as firefighters while in prison, to create a fairer pathway to firefighting jobs.