Somehow Perfect Justice And Fairness Keep Eluding Our Grasp

Down in Venezuela a claimed majority of the population for some 16 years has bought into the line, sometimes going under the name of "socialism," that perfect justice and fairness between and among people could be achieved by the government ordering that it be so.  As payback for their foolishness, the Venezuelans have been rewarded with near complete loss of freedom and rights, plummeting GDP, sinking incomes, soaring real poverty, empty stores, endless waits in lines, plus a dictator's daughter who has stolen $4 billion from the people, and a former treasury secretary who somehow has over $11 billion is Swiss bank accounts.  With the recent election, the Venezuelans may now finally begin to extricate themselves from their self-inflicted predicament.  Then again, this was only a legislative election, and the ruling overlords who have been empowered by the "socialist" revolution are not about to give up their power easily. 

Here in New York City, our local political grandees thankfully don't have many of the powers that enabled the Venezuelan kleptocrats to wreak such complete economic destruction, like control over the currency, sway over the banks, and ownership of major businesses and oil reserves.  But New York's rulers do have the same mentality that perfect fairness and justice can be achieved by government order.  I've previously reported, for example here, on how that plays out in the "affordable housing" arena.  For today's lesson, let's consider the question of preventing people from learning who has a criminal record.

Perhaps you haven't been following this issue, but there has been a big push among "progressives" in recent years for something called "Ban the Box" legislation, that is, new laws that place restrictions on the ability of employers to ask an applicant about his or her criminal record.  The stated rationale of the legislation is to make sure that people with criminal records have a "fair chance" to work.  Hey, who could be against "fairness"?  For an example of one of many organizations advocating for this sort of legislation, see the website of the National Employment Law Project here.  Here is NELP's description of what one such law requires:

Under the Fair Chance Act, it is illegal to ask about criminal history on job applications and during initial job interviews. Only after a job offer is made may employers ask about criminal convictions and—with the applicant’s permission—run a background check. After reviewing the applicant’s conviction history, employers may withdraw the job offer only if the candidate’s criminal record is directly related to the job or if hiring the individual would pose an unreasonable risk.      

As you probably have guessed by now, uber-progressive New York City is in the forefront of the "Ban the Box" movement, and indeed the "Fair Chance Act" cited in the excerpt is New York City's brand new legislation, that took effect on October 27.  The law gives no direct answer to the question of whether this guy's five convictions for armed robbery are or are not "directly related" to the job he has applied for in your company's IT department.  What do you think?  What do you think the New York City "Human Rights" enforcers think?

Meanwhile, in other news that nobody but me seems to think is related, the New York City Department of Investigation came out with a report yesterday addressing the question of why it is that the crime rate in New York City Housing Authority projects is around four times the crime rate in the remainder of the City.  I can't seem to get the report itself to download, but there is a long article about it in today's New York Times, page A33 of the print edition.  And what is the principal reason given for the disparity?  You guessed it:  failure to identify the people who have criminal records and to exclude them from the projects.

In a report released on Tuesday, the Investigation Department found that, without explanation, the police in 2011 stopped sending reports about crime on public housing property to the Housing Authority as required under a 1996 agreement between the two agencies. In recent years, they found, the Police Department also frequently neglected to inform housing officials when its residents were arrested on accusations of serious offenses, hampering efforts to remove them from public housing apartments. . . .  Specifically, the agency has not effectively enforced an existing policy to exclude criminal offenders from apartments permanently, allowing those accused of crimes such as gun possession and drug dealing to continue living in public housing.

But wait -- shouldn't people with criminal records have a "fair chance" to live in subsidized public housing?  The DOI Report seems to dwell specifically on the case of one Tyrone Howard, who fatally shot a police officer on October 20.  Seems that Mr. Howard lived in one of the projects.  Here's an excellent question:  would Mr. Howard have been any less likely to kill a cop if he had lived somewhere else other than a NYCHA project?

Be that as it may, the DOI does seem to be admitting rather forcefully that a criminal record may have a lot to do with the likelihood of someone committing more crimes of a similar sort in the future.  Should anyone tell Mayor de Blasio and the City Council?  Something tells me that the effort to compel perfect fairness through the "Fair Chance Act" is not going to end well.