What is “Ban the Box”?
Ban the Box is a national initiative that aims to provide a second chance to people with criminal backgrounds. The movement works to gather public support for legislation that bars state employers from asking applicants about their criminal history on initial job applications. Sixteen other states and over 100 cities and counties across the country have already adopted “ban the box” policies; now the first state in the South has added to that list.
According to the governor’s executive order, approximately 97 percent of those sentenced to prison will eventually return to society, many of whom look to rejoin the workforce. In the state of Georgia, over 1,300 offenders re-enter into the community every month without employment, and many know the struggles of trying to find work only to be turned away because of their past.
“Ban the Box” efforts are “intended to improve public safety, enhance workforce development, and provide increased state employment opportunities for applicants with criminal convictions on their records…”
Staying Out of Trouble
Approximately 70 million adults in the United States have arrest or conviction records. Over 80 percent of employers conduct criminal background checks, and criminal results found during screening have excluded many ex-offenders from moving forward in the hiring process.
Georgia Governor Deal emphasized that new policies would keep ex-offenders from being dismissed for employment before their skills and capabilities have even been considered. The policies should help criminals integrate back into society and avoid repeating criminal mistakes. Indeed, studies have found a relationship between productive work and lowered rates of recidivism.
Deal’s Executive Order also states that “Ban the Box” practices will “enhance Georgia’s reputation as the number one place in which to do business by increasing qualified applicant pools and improving the likelihood that the employer will identify the best candidate for the position.” This doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone with a criminal past will be hired, but that they will be considered before being dismissed immediately out of the pool of job applicants.
What Does “Ban the Box” Protect?
The executive order signed in February “establishes practices that:
- Prohibit the use of a criminal record as an automatic bar to employment.
- Prevent the use of an application form that inappropriately excludes or discriminates against qualified job applications.
- Promote the accurate use and interpretation of a criminal record.
- Provide qualified applicants with the opportunity to discuss any inaccuracies, contest the content and relevance of a criminal record, and provide information that demonstrates rehabilitation.
- Shall not affect applications for sensitive government positions in which a criminal history would be an immediate disqualification and initial disclosure on such applications shall still be required.” Source
Ban the Box provides ex-offenders the opportunity to avoid immediate disqualification from a job based on criminal history. However, an applicant’s skill set and compatibility with the position are still the most important considerations in any hiring decision. The decision to hire or pass ultimately lies in the employer’s hands.