Amid Shakeup, Uber Reaffirms Commitment to Criminal Justice Reform

June 27, 2017 by

Uber has had a year of internal ups and downs recently culminating in the exit of CEO Travis Kalanick. However, one area where the organization has remained consistent and wants to continue advancement in criminal justice reform.

Specifically, Uber has made it a goal to target the barriers of entry to employment for those with criminal records.

Many ex-offenders face difficulty when applying for jobs, applying for apartments or loans, and even applying to many schools who often require disclosure of a criminal record. Studies have shown that conviction status can reduce one’s employment chances by nearly 50 percent.

“Most people just want to make an honest day’s living, but far too often, there are barriers in place that prevent people from accessing work. That is especially the case for the over 70 million Americans with criminal records,” reads a post on Uber’s site.

As many state legislatures fail to act on over-criminalization and continue to criminalize seemingly innocuous acts, the number of people weighed down by a record also increases. With the inability to find employment, housing, and possibly education, many people will turn to economic crimes to provide for themselves and their families. So barring people from entering the workforce does have an impact on crime as well.

“That’s why Uber is proudly joining policymakers, businesses, and community leaders across the country to help break barriers, and create new opportunities for those who have paid their debt to society, but are still too often left with no good options,” continued the post, “By working together, we can break the cycle of recidivism and give people a chance to get back on their feet.”

And Uber does just that.

While legislation was recently passed that would standardize the regulatory policies for ridesharing companies in Texas, before that was a patchwork of policies from city to city. One of the major sticking points between Uber and local governments in Texas was the requirement of a government background check before a driver could be approved.

Uber complained it was duplicative, time consuming, and a burden while cities claimed that it was the only way to protect riders from drivers who may have a violent past.

But a deeper look at the process showed that Uber’s background check was more comprehensive and fair than the one provided by local governments, go figure.

For instance, if a potential driver’s background check came back with a flag for a criminal record, Uber would send a representative to the jurisdiction to determine if the crime actually warrants denying the potential driver the opportunity or if it was something that could be overlooked. The cities, on the other hand, would often immediately disqualify a potential driver if they had anything on their check.

Uber has also chosen to ban the box, similar to many other employers. They have joined in the fight for fair sentencing opposing “three strikes” laws and mandatory minimum sentencing. They are also a founding partner of the “Fair Chance Business Pledge,” a pledge created by the Obama administration where 200 companies in tech, retail, finance, and food and beverage service have signed on to remove barriers by giving second chances to ex-offenders.

While internal changes may be happening with the company, they seemingly remain committed to their goal of providing second chances, tackling recidivism, and pushing for fair sentencing.


About the Author

Charles operates the Houston office for Empower Texans/Texans for Fiscal Responsibility.