Ban the Box: Ending Employment Discrimination Against Formerly Incarcerated Individuals

On May 16, 2007, the Job Opportunities Task Force co-hosted a lunchtime forum with the ReEntry of Ex-Offenders Clinic at the University of Maryland School of Law. The discussion focused on removing from city job applications the box where applicants are asked to check “yes” or “no” to indicate if they have ever been convicted of a crime. It is important to note that banning the box does not require the employer to hire anyone, nor does it prohibit the employer from conducting a background check prior to the job offer.

To date, nine cities around the country have implemented the policy, while ten others are currently considering the measure. Banning the box helps to reduce employment discrimination against people who have been convicted of a crime, and increases the likelihood that qualified individuals will be given the chance to interview and present themselves before having to divulge background status.

Forum speakers included four of the clinic’s law students who spent the semester researching nationwide Ban the Box efforts, and Angela Rudolph, assistant to the Mayor of Chicago. Rudolph described how Chicago’s Ban the Box initiative was a direct recommendation of their Mayoral Policy Caucus on Reentry. (To read the Caucus’s recommendation report, visit City of Chicago Ex-Offender Reentry Initiatives.)

Rudolph also explained the precise steps that have been taken by the City of Chicago. City job application forms no longer require applicants to disclose convictions, and therefore information regarding criminal history does not affect the determination of whether the applicant possesses the skills and qualifications necessary to satisfy eligibility requirements. Criminal backgrounds are investigated only after the applicant has been determined to meet eligibility requirements and is actively being considered for hire. As a result of these changes, applicants are no longer automatically disqualified based solely on criminal background status.

The forum was co-sponsored by the Open Society Institute - Baltimore and JOTF.

To learn more about Ban the Box efforts in Baltimore, please contact Melissa Chalmers Broome at (410) 234-8046.

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