Ban The Box Legislation Debate

The District of Columbia has enacted new legislation that requires employers to remove the question from job applications that asks about criminal background. This new legislation is known as Ban The Box.

There has been a great push for this legislation by The Returning Citizen Advocates and sympathizers. The purpose of the Ban the Box is to improve employment opportunities for formerly incarcerated men and women.

Many people are automatically excluded from the hiring process once they inform the employer that they are in fact convicted of a felony. Some of these individuals (myself included) were convicted of felonies over 20 years ago and have since rehabilitated themselves and reformed from a life of crime.

Interestingly, most times the offenses in question are not related to type of employment being sought. Ban the Box enables formerly incarcerated individuals to be interviewed and the background check is still conducted, but it is done so after the conditional job offer. It’s the talk of the town, for Returning Citizens at least.

At a recent debate on Ban the Box one local advocate said, “We could be denying society as a whole the opportunity to benefit from the ingenious abilities of a very important population by denying them the opportunity to be employed in various businesses, or organizations when we use their background as the determining factor when hiring” (Tony Lewis of Sons of Light, Inc).

At the debate an interesting question was posed: is it fair for employers who have to Ban the Box to go forward with an interview after an application is submitted knowing their policy does not permit them to hire individuals who have been convicted of a crime. Is it a waste of resources and time? The debate grew heated.

One comment in particular caught my attention when Tony Lewis stated, “It is important that we recognize that Ban the Box is only the first step in the right direction because encouraging employers to re-visit hiring policies that exclude convicted felons is key.”

It goes without saying that an individual who has a crime against children cannot work around children, or an individual who has a money crime may not be suitable to work at a bank. The Ban the Box legislation has provisions for these types of developments to prevent such happenings. These employers are entitled to ask the question in an effort to secure their customers and protect the welfare of children.

I know that Ban The Box will undoubtedly, improve employment opportunities for Returning Citizens. I believe that I received my first full time position at Family Medical Counseling Services because I did not have to submit an application. I simply submitted my resume and I was interviewed. It was not until I made it to my second round of interviews that the Director of the agency determined that I was formerly incarcerated through her questioning. At this point I had already sold myself and gave the hiring managers a full understanding of how my skill set could benefit the mission of their agency.

I often wonder if I had to check the box and admit that I was a convicted felon whether or not I would have even had an opportunity to be interviewed. I wonder….

Check out: Education is the great equalizer, returning citizen advocate says.

Related Video: Boxed Out

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About Lashonia Etheridge-Bey

Lashonia Etheridge-Bey is a Public Speaker who can candidly and articulately speak to the consequences of youth violence, the effects of incarceration and the challenges of reentry into society. Read Lashonia's Full BIO Here 


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