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ACLU claims criminal record screening at Va. apartment complex is racially biased

A Virginia apartment complex discriminates against African Americans by banning prospective renters with felony criminal records and convictions for less serious offenses like drug possession, according to a lawsuit filed this week in federal court.

The ACLU claims the blanket policy at the Sterling Glen Apartments in Chesterfield, Va., is intended to keep African Americans from living in the complex, according to the lawsuit.

African Americans make up 22 percent of the population in Chesterfield County, but 46 percent have felony convictions, according to the civil rights advocacy group.

“Bans like these not only pose a barrier to people reentering the community after release from jail or prison, but also those with records who have been living and working in the community for years or even decades,” said ACLU of Virginia Dunn legal fellow Jennifer Safstrom. “Lack of access to permanent housing can also increase rates of recidivism, perpetuating cycles of criminalization and making communities less safe.”

The ACLU has pursued legal action against other apartment buildings with similar policies in recent years.

Wisely Properties, the owner of the complex just south of Richmond, did not immediately return a call for comment.

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