Most employers rely on a gut feeling when it comes to job applicants even more so with criminal records legislation looming. The feedback and responses that an applicant gives to certain questions also allows an insight in to any potential employee. However one question that is off limits is whether applicants have criminal records. This is becoming increasingly illegal within the U.S. and effectively to provide a fair opportunity to those with criminal records. The criminal justice reforms are gathering momentum and aims to reduce those incarcerated along with a review of how harsh existing criminal penalties are. Advocates and campaign groups want to eliminate the use of criminal records to determine the outcome of job applications. While employers largely support the initiative there are concerns over lawsuits irrespective that an applicant may well have been refused an opportunity based on work experience. Employers would prefer that disclosure over criminal records was voluntary and see the only people that may well profit from the new legislation are lawyers.
Prison reform activists are at pains to point out that there are conscientious and committed employers. However many paper job applications still ask about criminal records. For individuals looking to a fresh start and a new life this can become a self perpetuating cycle of despair and incarceration. Around 70 million U.S. residents have criminal records and can tread water in the employment market for years. Policy makers and researchers see those with criminal records unable to access the jobs market is a main reason to recidivism.
Ban the box was inspired by the lack of employment and the campaign has been running for around 10 years. In September around a hundred cities and counties along with 18 states had enacted some form of legislation to remove criminal records questions within public employment. Employers commitment to banning the box will shortly be tested in light of a government push to reduce the inmate population.
The Justice Dept, recently announced plans to liberate 6,000 inmates from October 30 through November 2. A further 8,500 may be eligible for release from now until November 2016. This is anticipated on prison reform and less harsh penalties over retroactive non violent drug offenses. Current cities with ‘ban the box’ legislation include San Francisco, Washington D.C, Seattle and Philadelphia. These cities have seen employment soar by around 40% post legislation. This week saw New York’s Fair Chance Act become effective for private employers. It has existed for Public employers since 2011. Around 27,000 New York citizens are released from jails every year,
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