From Solitary Confinement to Executive Suite: Ken Oliver

Ken Oliver of Checkr.org

CAPITOL WEEKLY PODCAST: We are joined today by Ken Oliver, Executive Director of Checkr.org, the philanthropic arm of Checkr, a tech firm that is working to reinvent the background check, “making the process fairer through education, and eliminating human bias.” Oliver knows firsthand the struggles that formerly incarcerated people face upon re-entry to society: sentenced to life in prison in 1997 under California’s Three Strikes law, he spent nearly 24 years behind bars, 8 in solitary confinement.

Oliver educated himself in prison, reading history, law and philosophy, and with the help of the Mayer Brown law firm and Michael Romano from Stanford Law School’s Three Strikes Project, ultimately won his bid for early release. Putting his behind-bars legal training to use, Oliver went to work as a paralegal for an Oakland nonprofit that provided legal services to inmates; he was soon promoted to Policy Director.

Oliver joined us to talk about his journey, the flaws in California’s re-entry program and about SB 809, the Fair Chance Expansion and Protection Act of 2023, which would ensure that conviction history does not prevent qualified candidates from finding employment.

Plus, as always, we discuss Who Had the Worst Week in California Politics.

1:18 SB809 is on Suspense – what now?

3:53 How many people are impacted?

5:54 Why ‘Ban the Box’ laws have been ineffective

8:28 Ken’s story

13:10 The governor’s San Quentin proposal

15:07 Recidivism

16:39 Who was George Jackson?

20:54 Prison hunger strikes

21:33 Reception from lawmakers?

26:42 California’s reintegration system

30:46 WWCA

34:21 The John Howard Scholarship

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