“What we are suggesting is that when it comes to the application, give folks a chance to get through the door.”
This week, President Obama took a big step toward helping millions of Americans find gainful employment by asking federal agencies to “ban the box.” On job applications in both the public and private sectors, applicants are asked to check a box if they’ve ever been convicted of a crime. For many job seekers, seeing “the box” on an application means they’ve hit a dead end and it’s time to look elsewhere, even if their crime was committed decades ago.
“It is relevant to find out whether somebody has a criminal record. We’re not suggesting ignore it,” Obama said. “What we are suggesting is that when it comes to the application, give folks a chance to get through the door. Give them a chance to get in there so they can make their case.”
“The box” is a hurdle to employment for many in minority communities. A 2010 study by the Pew Charitable Trust found that 1 in 12 working-age African-American men and 1 in 36 working-age Hispanic men were incarcerated. Plus, roughly 70 million U.S. adults have criminal records. “The box” prevents many deserving, low-risk job seekers from getting a chance to excel in high-paying careers. A 2009 study by Kiminori Nakamura, assistant professor of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Maryland, found that after being out 7 to 10 years, those with a criminal record pose no greater danger than those with no record at all. “Very old criminal records are not very useful in predicting risk,” Nakamura said.
(H/T USA Today)