Although some may be quick to condemn those with a criminal record, the truth is that more Americans have been arrested for crimes in recent years. In the state of Ohio alone, 1.9 million people currently have criminal records, and every single state has seen a substantial increase of residents with felony convictions. In fact, convicted felons represent 8.11% of the country's voting-age population. But even after these individuals serve their time, they still aren't treated fairly in many situations. They may have trouble finding housing, making social connections, and — most importantly — finding a job. Now, legislators around the country want to make it easier for those with criminal histories to obtain a second chance during the job seeking process by "banning the box" on applications.
The staffing industry may provide career opportunities for over 15 million Americans each year, but those who have been convicted of crimes are often discriminated against before they're ever interviewed due to information collected by potential employers. That's because there's a little box on many job applications that asks whether the applicant has a criminal history. If you've been convicted of a crime, you either have to disclose that information upfront or lie to your potential employer, which is a no-win situation for the applicant. It allows employers to screen out an employee for a relatively minor crime, even if the act took place decades prior.
Some states have already moved to "ban the box" from job applications, thus leveling the playing field for those who made mistakes in their past and subsequently paid for them. Currently, Colorado is trying to bring forth the bill for a third time. It was struck down twice in the Republican-controlled Senate, but now that the Democrats have control it might be able to succeed. If it does, Colorado would join 11 other states that have already gotten rid of that box on applications. The bill would also keep employers from advertising that those with criminal records need not apply.
Of course, the bill would not keep employers from running background checks or from inquiring about an individual's criminal history at a later date. There would also be certain exceptions to the law. For instance, if the law says someone with a particular type of criminal history cannot be employed in a specific sector, the employer may still inquire about a criminal record. Employers who participate in programs that encourage the hiring of people with criminal records or who are required by law to conduct criminal record checks would also be exempt.
Ultimately, such a law would allow people from all backgrounds to compete fairly for employment opportunities within the state. Since more than 80% of employees feel their employers expect too much work from too few people, the passing of a "Ban the Box" bill could increase the talent pool of viable candidates. As a bonus, it could also decrease recidivism, as employment is the number one determining factor in whether someone convicted of a crime will go back to jail in the future.
Although not all business owners are in favor of banning the box, supposedly due to the burden it places on smaller organizations, advocates and lawmakers are hopeful that the bill can succeed.
As Democratic Representative Leslie Herod explained in a statement: "The data is there, showing that when you give someone an opportunity to have a face-to-face conversation with an employer, to get out of that application process, they're more likely to get that job... All we're trying to do is ensure that people aren't automatically screened out for a mistake they made in their past and that they’ve paid their time for. This will allow them to sit next to an employer one-on-one and say, 'Here's what I did in my past, here's who I am now and here's how I plan to move forward.' Ban the Box will give them that opportunity."