formerly incarcerated

Human trafficking is estimated to be in the millions--yet only a fraction of it is reported. We talk to Hediana Utarti of Asian Women's Shelter in San Francisco, which helps immigrants--including LGBT and human trafficking victims--to get out of abusive situations.

In 1969, Dorsey Nunn was sentenced to life in prison for killing a man. After serving 12 years of his sentence, Nunn was paroled in 1981. Back on the outside, he realized there was very little help for him or people like him to make new lives. He took matters into his own hands and started working with other formerly incarcerated people to address issues of employment, education, and voting rights. 

Luisa Beck

A note to our readers: the names of formerly incarcerated men and their families in this story have been changed to protect their identities.


“My whole life, I never had a job.”

At the age of 51, William Bennett was one of the oldest people in California who could claim that. But in June 2013, eight months after leaving prison, that was about to change.

“Either Monday or Tuesday I’ll be working on the freeways,” he said. “580 or 880. Picking up trash. First job ever.”

Flickr user: Waponi

When you fill out a job application, you expect to answer some basic questions. Things like your employment and education history, and relevant skills to the job. And in many cases, you also have to check a box to declare whether you’ve ever been convicted of a crime.

In the city of Richmond, though, that last one is no longer fair game. It hasn’t been for a couple of years, since the city passed an ordinance called “ban the box,” forbidding government employees from asking job applicants about their criminal histories.

More than 50 cities and counties, as well as 10 states, have enacted some form of “ban the box” laws. That includes California.