Finding an apartment in Seattle can be tough even for non-criminals. Throw a couple of armed-robbery convictions on your record, and it's damn near impossible. Clearly, ex-cons--or as they may prefer to be called, "innocence challenged" individuals--are being discriminated against. Thus the city is looking for insight from local residents into whether making criminals a protected class analogous to disabled, gay, or religious folks in terms of housing is a good idea.
KING 5 reports today that the effort at "protecting" criminals sprung from Seattle's Office for Civil Rights and began in November of last year. If enacted, the law would make it illegal to discriminate against people based solely on certain nonviolent criminal convictions.
The idea is supported by the local police department, which sees criminal recidivism as directly impacted by ex-cons' ability to find a place to live. It's opposed, of course, by landlords who don't want to be made to ignore a housing applicant's arrest and conviction history.
But even while the law is sure to further brand Seattle as a wacky liberal wonderland, the law makes sense. A recently released convict has almost zero chance of keeping out of trouble if his or her most basic needs like shelter aren't met. Study after study has shown that housing, or a lack thereof, directly impacts whether a convict or parolee can reintegrate back into society.
Whether people like it or not, the vast majority of folks who go to jail or prison are getting out someday. The choice over whether they live in a house near you or in an alley near you may determine whether your car gets broken into or your house robbed.
Certainly some violent criminals should be removed from the list by way of their crimes. But even these folks need housing too, so some options need to be made available. Putting them on the street does no one any good.
The city will hear from residents about the plan at a meeting Wednesday, March 16, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Seattle City Hall.