Ban the Box and Target: have we hit the tipping point?

Last week at the International Drug Policy Reform Conference, Ethan Nadelmann stated that the U.S. has reached a “tipping point” on drug policy reform, with criminalization of drug use on its way to obsolescence. Over the weekend, retail giant Target has announced that it will stop asking prospective employees about their criminal records on initial job applications.  Perhaps Target’s move shows that we have reached a tipping point on Ban the Box as well.

ban the box

While background checks will still be run before formal employment begins, by “Banning the Box” on the initial application Target hopes to give formerly convicted or incarcerated individuals the chance to get an interview and explain why they are qualified for  employment rather than simply disqualifying all justice-involved individuals from the start.The decision from a major company like Target to join the “Ban the Box” movement is a huge success for advocacy groups who have pushed for years to help end employment disqualification based on criminal conviction alone.

Target’s decision to Ban the Box, which is company-wide, could help formerly incarcerated people in every state get a chance at gainful employment. In addition to individual companies like Target choosing to Ban the Box, eleven states (CA, CO, CT, HI, MD, MA, MN, NM, NY, PA, WI) have passed Ban the Box legislation mandating that employment applications not ask about criminal history, and a number of municipalities and counties in other states that have joined the effort. According to some, the “Ban the Box” movement began gaining momentum last year when the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission clarified that a potential employee should not be turned down solely because of a prior conviction. But long before the EEOC made Ban the Box a national media story, grassroots groups throughout the country have been advocating for this common-sense approach to help formerly incarcerated people become self-sufficient through access to gainful employment.

In North Carolina, SCSJ is a major source of education, community organizing and technical assistance for Ban the Box campaigns. North Carolina is ranked second only to California in number successful Ban the Box initiatives by individual municipalities. SCSJ and the Second Chance Alliance have been leaders in the NC Ban the Box movement, fighting to help the 1.6 million, or 1 in 5, NC citizens with criminal records gain access to employment opportunities.

SCSJ has contributed to successful Ban the Box campaigns in Durham County and city, Cumberland County, Carrboro, and the Town of Spring Lake. We are currently working on initiatives in other counties including Nash, Edgecombe, Scotland, Hoke, Robeson, Richmond, and Wilson. Help SCSJ continue to spread the Ban the Box movement throughout North Carolina!

How Can YOU be a part of this Change?

  1. Donate to SCSJ!: The change that SCSJ has already been able to create would not have been possible without support from our allies and community members. We need your help to be able to broaden our outreach to these other counties, gain support, and push for a statewide ban in 2015.

  2. Private Companies: With Target’s public statement, this has opened the door for your company to consider Ban the Box as a way to help give a second chance to formerly convicted individuals in your community. Learn about the positive outcomes of Ban the Box, start a conversation, and reach out to SCSJ for help in promoting Ban the Box within your organization.

  3. Municipalities: If you live in or work for a municipality that might benefit from bringing new employment opportunities to formerly incarcerated people, contact SCSJ to find out more. We can help you weigh the pros and cons of initiating your own campaign to Ban the Box.