People with a criminal conviction know the drill when it comes to employment. When filling out a job application, there is that question again: Have YOU Ever Been Convicted of a Crime? What do you do? Check it and you will never hear back from the employer, or leave it blank in hopes no one will find out. If you are one of the 92 million Americans with an arrest or criminal record, you run the risk of losing that job down the line when a background check is conducted.
The Ban the Box movement, started in California in 2004 by our friends at All of Us or None, seeks to address this issue by banning the criminal history question on job applications. Now over 45 cities and counties across the country and a handful of states ban the box on their employment applications. SCSJ has contributed to successful Ban the Box campaigns throughout North Carolina in both Durham County and the City of Durham, Cumberland County, Carrboro, and the Town of Spring Lake.
We are actively working on initiatives in other counties such as Nash, Edgecombe, Scotland, Hoke, Robeson, Richmond, and Wilson. Also, we created the Ban the Box initiative guide as a tool communities can use to start a Ban the Box movement in their communities.
The latest development in the movement seeks to ban the box on the applications of private employers. For example, Minnesota is one of the latest states to do so, with a “private employer ban the box” law that went into effect January 1st. Kevin Lindsey, Minnesota Commissioner of Human Rights, said “This is a significant piece of legislation. This law will offer the vast majority of individuals with a non-violent criminal record a second chance in gaining employment opportunities that will help better their lives.” Some private employers, such as Target, have taken the initiative themselves to remove the box on their applications. Additionally, Target is Banning the Box in all of its stores throughout the U.S.
All of Us or None is now spearheading a Fair Chance Pledge that asks nonprofits and social justice organizations to commit to hiring people with past convictions. Here at SCSJ, we have two staff members who were formerly incarcerated.
We want to hear from you! We would like to hear stories of people who have benefited from the Ban the Box movement and from nonprofits who have hired people with a criminal record. Write to us at [email protected] and we will share you success stories with the wider community!
Meredith McMonigle is a macro social work intern with the Southern Coalition of Social Justice in Durham, NC. SCSJ partners with communities of color and economically disadvantaged communities in the south to defend and advance their political, social and economic rights through the combination of legal advocacy, research, organizing and communications.