Ban the Box: from a fellow member of the Second Chance Alliance

Daryl V. Atkinson, a Staff Attorney in the North Carolina Office of Indigent Defense Services recently wrote the following op-ed for the NC Public Defender Association newsletter. SCSJ works with Mr. Atkinson as part of the Second Chance Alliance in support of the Ban the Box campaign for fair hiring.
People with criminal records suffer from pervasive discrimination in many areas of life, including employment, housing, education, and eligibility for many forms of social service benefits. “Ban the Box” is a fair hiring campaign that seeks to end the employment discrimination faced by people with criminal records.
In the wake of the terrorist attacks on 9/11 the criminal background check industry has grown tremendously. According to a survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management more than 90% percent of companies reported using criminal background checks for their hiring decisions. For many companies, criminal background checks have become the primary screening tool for prospective employees. However, these background checks often return information that is inaccurate, outdated, and unrelated (from any reasonable perspective) to the applicant’s fitness for a particular position. Ban the Box ordinances remove the questions about an applicant’s criminal history from the initial stages of the employment process so the hiring authority can first get an opportunity to learn about the candidate’s experience, skills and personality as they relate to the position to be filled.
Delaying the criminal background check until an applicant has been made a conditional offer of employment has improved the employment outcomes for people with criminal records. For example, Minneapolis passed a Ban the Box ordinance in 2007. Prior to the ordinance, only 6% of people with tarnished records were able to find work. After the Ban the Box measure was passed, this figure jumped to 60%, without any increase in theft or violence in the workplace. No other public policy has been shown to provide this level of improvement in transforming people with criminal records into responsible and productive tax-paying citizens.
To date, over twenty cities and five states across the country have passed Ban the Box laws. The policy has proven to benefit potential employees, employers, and communities at large. Workers benefit because Ban the Box ordinances remove the chilling effect that questions about criminal records have on job applicants. Moreover, delaying the inquiry into an applicant’s criminal history levels the playing field by allowing the applicant to be judged on all of their qualifications and experience, not just their criminal record.
Employers benefit from having an increased pool of applicants to choose from and reduced human resource expenses because they are not conducting unnecessary background checks on unqualified applicants. Finally, the community benefits from increased public safety and reduced corrections costs. In sum, Ban the Box is a win-win proposition for people with criminal records, prospective employers, and society as a whole. Currently, the North Carolina Second Chance Alliance is encouraging the City Councils and County Commissions in Durham and Raleigh, NC to pass Ban the Box ordinances.