ATLANTA – The ACLU of Georgia, Georgia Justice Project, and Atlanta Legal Aid Society sent a letter today to the Roswell Police Department urging it to revise its criminal history screening policy to comply with the federal Fair Housing Act.
The police department’s current policy requires participating landlords to exclude potential tenants with a broad range of criminal histories. For example, the policy bans people who have been on probation or parole for a non-violent felony anytime within the last decade - which includes people who committed a single non-violent crime 15 years ago or more. This policy not only violates basic American principles and fails to make our communities any safer, but also violates the Fair Housing Act.
The FHA prohibits the police department as well as landlords from engaging in practices that disproportionately harm people of color, unless the practice is shown to be necessary to serve a legitimate government interest that cannot be served in a less discriminatory manner.
The letter stated that the police department should immediately stop requiring landlords to engage in criminal history screening through the Crime Free Housing Program or through any other means. Alternatively, the letter urges the City to change its criminal history screening to comply with the Fair Housing Act.
“In the United States, where people of color are disproportionately arrested and convicted, a program based on criminal records like Roswell’s is racial discrimination,” said Kosha Tucker, staff attorney of the ACLU of Georgia. “Reintegrating people who may have made mistakes in the past makes our communities safer. Evicting and marginalizing such people is cruel, discriminatory, and counterproductive.”