The overwhelming research indicates that the most effective way to reduce the likelihood of someone returning to jail or prison is access to stable employment. However many who are released find their criminal history to be an insurmountable barrier to finding a job. Unable to get much further in the hiring process than submitting the application with the box checked, studies have found the unemployment rate for people with convictions is as high as 70%.
Excluding applicants before they can show their qualifications for the job hurts everyone. People who are not able to earn their own way are discouraged from establishing quality the job skills necessary to lead productive lives. Employers who arbitrarily exclude all applicants with a criminal history reduce the likelihood of finding the best candidate for the position. Moreover, taxpayers bear the burden either through the costs of re-incarcerating people who are unfairly excluded from job opportunities or of providing public benefits to them and their families.
“Ban the Box” is a campaign, first used by All of Us or None in 2003 to refer to the fair hiring policy of waiting to ask the question about an applicant’s criminal history until after the most qualified applicants have been identified. The policy also requires applicants have the opportunity to explain their criminal history before denial and that only criminal convictions relevant to the position will be used to disqualify a candidate. “Ban the box” improves chances for people with criminal histories to prove job qualifications, for employers to find the best candidate and for taxpayers to yield a better return on criminal justice tax dollars.
Ban the Box has been implemented in fourteen states, including Georgia and more than 95 municipalities, including the City of Atlanta, the City of East Point, Fulton County and Macon-Bibb County. Six states and more than a dozen municipalities have also extended the policy to private employers. In addition major private employers such as Home Depot, Target and Walmart have also decided to remove the box from their initial applications.
For more of GJP’s policy recommendations click here.