Ban the Box: For a Second Chance at Fair Employment

Check out our Ban the Box videos of North Carolinians struggling with the collateral consequences of criminal convictions.

Why is it important?

There are over 1.6 million people in N.C. with a criminal record. The prison population has risen to about 40,000. 98% will eventually be released. 50% of ex-offenders are sent back to prison for new crimes.

Nearly 45% of those under Department of Correction supervision are African American; this disparity is a significant challenge to communities of color. As of September, 2010 there were nearly 4,000 people in Durham County on probation or parole; add to this the thousands who have criminal records but are not under the supervision of the Department of Correction.

These statistics demonstrate the tremendous number of people who face employment barriers as they seek honest, legal employment.

Why does this matter to our communities?

If families of formerly incarcerated are going to heal, prosper and contribute to our community, EVERYONE must have an opportunity for employment, housing and education. Employment is one of the most effective tools to reduce recidivism-returning to prison, resulting in a safer community and lower cost to tax payers.

What is “Ban the Box”?

The “box” is that place on many employment applications that asks whether the applicant has been convicted of a crime or been incarcerated. Some may even inquire about arrests.

What would “Ban the Box” do?

It would remove those questions from the application and the initial stage of the employment process so that those who are responsible for making hiring decisions first get an opportunity to learn about the candidate's experience, skills and personality as they relate to the position to be filled.

Does it mean no criminal background checks would be done?

Once the hiring official is prepared to offer the applicant a job or they are a finalist for the open position a criminal background check would be initiated.

How would the screening process work?

The applicant would be able to explain the nature of the crime, how long ago it was committed, when incarceration ended, successful rehabilitation efforts and certifications if available. They will also be given an opportunity to review the records to determine their accuracy. The hiring official would adhere to federal Equal Opportunity Commission guidelines and not make negative decisions when the crime is unrelated to the job duties.

Have other city and county governments made this change to their employment applications?

Many cities, counties and even states have passed ordinances that changed the application and made the process fairer. In September and August, Detroit and Cincinnati joined 21 other cities including New Haven, Boston, Jacksonville, Memphis, San Francisco and Kalamazoo. Alameda County, California and Multnomah County, Oregon have banned the box. Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Mexico and Hawaii have passed laws prohibiting the box on applications for state jobs.

Prepared by the North Carolina Justice Center for the Durham Second Chance Alliance

Action NC, InStep Inc: 919-680-8000

NC Justice Center: 919-856-3194

Southern Coalition for Social Justice: 919-323-3380

October, 2010

 

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