Advocates for Blacks Want to "Ban the Box"

Jan 19, 2016

A bill to make it easier for convicted criminals to re-enter the workforce after they’ve served their time was under discussion at the statehouse. 

So-called “Ban the Box” legislation is a top priority of the NAACP.  

Some job applications include a box to check if the applicant has a criminal history.   Advocates say for some that automatically impedes re-entry into normal society.  

Betty Andrews with the NAACP says blacks are affected most because of their disproportionate numbers in the criminal justice system.

“This a special challenge for African-Americans,” Andrews says.

The bill would prevent some employers from including the question on the job application, so applicants aren’t automatically rejected.   Backers say that way an applicant can get a foot in the door.

“Once a person has done their time we expect that they should be able to get on with their life,” Andrews says.

Under the bill, employers would ask the question later in the application process instead of eliminating candidates who might otherwise be qualified.   

Critics say some businesses are required by federal law to exclude convicted felons.   And some business groups say it would be another impediment for employers.    

Lawmakers heard stories of inmates unable to find work after serving their time.   Backers are encouraged by the governor’s call for criminal justice reform.