Thanks to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Savannah, Georgia’s police force has ended a program that encouraged landlords to bar ex-criminals from renting from their properties. The now-defunct program was known as Crime Free Housing Program. For almost 20 years, this program instructed landlords not to rent to people who had any kind of criminal history.
If we are to believe in our justice system, we have to believe that an ex-criminal who has served his or her time, should not be discriminated against when looking for a place to live – especially when they were charged with nonviolent crimes. They have already paid their due to society. Yet, the police seemed to be set on setting these people up for failure in their rehabilitation efforts by preventing them from finding affordable housing.
We aren’t naive. We understand that some criminals are lifetime criminals. We don’t want to live by violent people, either. However, why punish those who have worked hard to cast their old personas off their shoulders? Humans deserve second and third chances. None of us are without flaws.
The police ended the program after they received a letter from the ACLU outlining the violations of federal anti-discrimination laws. Rachel Goodman, a staff attorney at the ACLU said,
Through its landlord program, Savannah police targeted people with criminal histories for exclusion from housing. Make no mistake. In the United States, where people of color are disproportionately arrested and convicted, a program based on criminal records like Savannah’s is racial discrimination. We thank the Savannah police for putting a hold on this destructive program, and we look forward to working with them on reform.
The biggest flaw in the program was the lack of consideration for individual situations. Many people denied housing were “those who had been on probation or parole in the past ten years, anyone with a nonviolent felony conviction from the past ten years, and anyone with a misdemeanor conviction from the past five years.” By lumping all criminals in one, broad category it was exclusionary to those who had made a difference in their lives.