Criminal Justice

Ban the Box

The “ban the box” movement, which originated in the states, is a great policy step forward to fix the criminal justice system

There are about 70 million adults with criminal records in America today. Because there are so many, lowering the recidivism rate has become one of the main goals in reforming the criminal justice system. In order to do this, it is essential that laws make it easier for those coming out of jail to get a job. A study in 2009 showed people who have been out of prison for seven to ten years prove to be no greater of a risk than people with no record.

The “Ban the box” effort emerged a result of such studies. The term means eliminating the requirement that an applicant disclose a criminal record on a job application, moving that question to later in the hiring process. In the last five years, Delaware, Nebraska, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois and six other states have banned the box for most of their state jobs. The first state to do this was Hawaii in 1998. Walmart and Target, two huge employers in the United States, have also banned the box.

Taking a note from the great work begun in the various states on , President Barack Obama on November 2 mandated all federal agencies “ban the box” in their hiring process. While Congress is formulating bipartisan legislation that would “ban the box” for federal hiring, Obama has directed the Office of Personnel Management to do what it can as far to adjust the rules and delay asking about criminal records until later in the hiring process.

“It is relevant to find out whether somebody has a criminal record. We’re not suggesting ignore it,” Obama stated. “What we are suggesting is that when it comes to application, give folks a chance to get through the door. Give them a chance to get in there so they can make their case.” Those that support this cause argue that released prisoners should be allowed to prove that they are qualified for a job as opposed to being rejected so early that they are not even met in person.

Members of the American Legislative Exchange Council have proposed a model policy called “A Bill to Ban-the-Box on Employment Applications” which they will discuss at the annual State and Nation Policy Summit this December in Scottsdale, Arizona. This policy states that it is the responsibility of each state to play a part in reintegrating people with a criminal record back into society. In order to be good citizens, people must have meaningful jobs.

The proposed ALEC model policy acknowledges that making it easier for people with a record to become employed will reduce recidivism and improve the community as a whole. Because liability for business owners who hire ex-criminals can be an impediment to employment, ALEC has a model policy called “Civil Liability for Employers Hiring Ex-Offenders Act” to address that issue. This model policy protects employers who hire ex-offenders that do not have a violent or sex offense from being sued on the basis of just those issues.

Aside from minor setbacks like the liability issue with employers, the “ban the box” movement, which originated in the states, is an overall great policy step forward to fix the criminal justice system. This bipartisan solution will immensely benefit society now and in the long run.


In Depth: Criminal Justice

The American Legislative Exchange Council is proud to be a leader on criminal justice reform. For over a decade, the ALEC task force on criminal justice has brought state legislators and stakeholders together for the purpose of driving sound criminal justice policies. ALEC members focus on new and innovative state …

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