I guess I can kind of see the thinking behind San Francisco's proposal to make ex-felons a protected class -- such a conviction carries such a stigma that even when the person has finished serving his or her prison sentence, it's difficult if not impossible to re-integrate fully into society. And it doesn't sound as if it would be an unlimited form of protection:
[SF City Human Rights Commissioner Teresa] Sparks says rental property owners could turn away sex offenders and people who've committed some violent crimes, like murder. Employers could also reject job applicants if their crimes are "significantly related" to the position they are seeking, but they could only inquire about the applicants' criminal past at the end of the interview process.
Hmm. I'd think that violent crimes would likely be "significantly related" to most job positions, and probably for rental purposes as well. Yet:
"Without housing, it's hard to keep a steady job, and many times because of that, people recommit," Sparks said. She argues a criminal history shouldn't be the only reason someone is denied housing or work.
There seems to be some serious tension between Sparks' two observations. The very people that we most want not to recommit crimes are probably the violent felons, so arguably we most want to help them get housing and steady employment. Yet, people may rightfully think that violent felons are the last ones that you want to take a chance on.