DC city council member apologizes for making inadvertently racist comments

Washington DC snowWashington, DC council member Trayvon White Sr. issued an apology after receiving public backlash for comments he made in a video he posted on social media implying that the DC weather was controlled by the Rothschilds, a European Jewish banking family who have been linked to anti-Semitic conspiracy theories for years. Read more about the story at CNN.

NBL member reaches $3.5M settlement over DC police shooting

police lightsNational Black Lawyers member Jason Downs has reached a $3.5 million settlement with the District of Columbia over a fatal shooting by a police officer of an unarmed motorcyclist. Downs says Terrence Sterling was unlawfully shot in the back and killed by Metropolitan Police Officer Brian Trainer on September 11, 2016. At the time he was killed, Mr. Sterling posed no threat to the officer and was not armed. According to the Washington Post, Sterling was shot by Trainer during an attempted arrest for reckless driving. The Post reports that District officials say the settlement is the largest ever reached in a fatal shooting by an on-duty officer. More details are available at the Washington Post.

Increasing employment opportunities for D.C.’s returning citizens

By NBL member Melanie Bates Earlier this week, Georgetown University released a report, African-American Employment, Population & Housing Trends in Washington, D.C. The key findings indicate African-Americans in the District of Columbia have experienced steady patterns of declining income gains, higher unemployment, and lower educational attainment than white residents. The report notes that by 2020, 50% of all new jobs will require at least a bachelor’s degree or above, and nearly 60% will require at least some form of education and training beyond high school. These requirements severely limit the ability of African-Americans to be competitive in the employment market. Further, 60,000 adult African-American D.C. residents have not finished high school, 50% have no formal education past high school (compared to 5% of white residents), and only 12.3% of African-Americans have a bachelor’s degree (compared to 37.1% of white residents). These statistics are devastating. The constraints discussed in Georgetown University’s report impact the District’s returning citizen population, nearly all whom are African-American, in an even more detrimental way. Approximately 60,000 D.C. residents have a criminal record and each year, an estimated 8,000 residents return to the District after serving prison sentences. I strongly believe returning citizen employment outcomes can be improved by beginning the job application process prior to release from incarceration. With a sufficient investment of resources, residents coming home could be contacted by a District government agency (or other affiliated organizations) while they are still incarcerated. Residents should be given the opportunity to complete an intake form that surveys their interests, educational level, and relevant skills. Having this information beforehand would accelerate the placement process. The agency/organization could contact potential employers so that meetings and interviews could be scheduled prior to release. Additionally, the agency/organization could send resources to residents that provide information about the interview process, such as resume formulation, practice interview questions, proper etiquette, and the like. All of this will build confidence and hope in the individual as well as increase the likelihood that they will follow through with the job application process. Coming home without a plan leads to unfavorable outcomes. Persons get frustrated with the system and often revert back to their previous behavior. Already having the job application process in play, and with the assistance of “Ban-the Box,” recidivism will be prevented and returning citizens will be kept on the path to success. Moreover, the D.C. Council passed the Incarceration to Incorporated Entrepreneurship Act of 2016, but it has not yet been funded. Fully investing in this initiative would most certainly assist with creating essential opportunities for our returning citizens.