Some Members of Congress Say ‘Ban the Box’ Would Give Ex-Criminals Better Access to Jobs

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NEXSTAR (WASHINGTON D.C.)– Momentum is growing on Capitol Hill to ‘ban the box’. It’s a movement that would ban federal agencies and contractors from asking a job candidate’s criminal history.

Something criminal justice advocates have long argued keeps ex-felons from landing jobs and stops them from returning to prison.

Republicans and Democrats are fighting to see the plan through in the Senate.

Heather Rice-Minus with Prison Fellowship says, “It’s almost like a scarlet letter.”

Criminal justice advocates say, one question: ‘do you have criminal history?’, is blocking millions of Americans from snagging a job.

Rice-Minus adds, “They want to go back out and contribute to their families and they just keep running into these barriers.”

She says the question impacts the one in three Americans with criminal records, and with few options, she says many wind-up back in prison.

Rice-Minus explains, “It could be very defeating.”

More than two dozen states have already banned the question from job applications, and now Republican Senator Ron Johnson wants the US government to do the same.

The Wisconsin Senator shares, “It just gives people that that extra chance.”

He’s partnering with Democratic Senator Corey Booker to pass the ‘ban the box’ act.

It would ban federal agencies and contractors from asking a job applicant’s criminal history before an interview.

Johnson explains, “We’re just giving someone with that record a chance to have an interview and talk to that employer; show an employer their value and worth.”

Some researchers argue that without the question, prejudiced hiring managers may be less likely to hire people of color, fearing they may have criminal records.

Rice-minus says that’s not a reason to kill the bill.

She adds, “We already have many laws that prevent against discrimination.”

The bill passed the House last week. Johnson says if he and Booker can build support in the senate, the President has been a strong advocate for prison reform.

He adds, “My guess is the president will definitely sign that into the law.”

In March, North Dakota lawmakers passed a version of the ‘ban the box’ bill.

It also prevents public employers from inquiring about a job applicant’s criminal history until they have been picked for an interview.

House Bill 1282 easily passed the house 81 to 11, and over in the Senate, 43 to 2.

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