Banning the Box

Although we’re remiss to admit it, a great majority of Americans hold a natural bias against anyone who has ever found themselves behind bars. Even more so if it’s because of a felony crime. These, unfortunately, do find a way to continually haunt these individuals for the rest of their lives.

Sure, it’s very easy to say, “they knew what they were doing and had their chance to be upstanding citizens.” But, to say that is to ignore the social and economic issues that may have very well forced them into that style to begin with. While the origin of each particular crime is certainly different it’s important to note and be aware it isn’t always going to be rooted in malice.

Yet, when one looks at a job application and, despite all the qualifications that may be there, if one had checked the box on the application it’s easy to instantly develop a stigma against them based on the idea that if they hurt someone else they may be evil or potentially liable if it happens again. Or perhaps it would look like this person is untrustworthy and irresponsible. These are serious negative biases that come to mind just by looking at something and that makes it far easier for them to be eliminated.

It’s important to remember the idea that these individuals that are applying for these jobs are still individuals. Men and women who have no doubt had their lives dramatically impacted by their previous bad choices are struggling to get things back together. Generally, aspects of parole and probation often require the individual to get a job as soon as possible. But, with this undeniable stigma, it’s difficult to get jobs. Various high level and high paying jobs are impossible to achieve. Thus, they are forced into situations that leave stuck, and where it becomes almost impossible for them to progress further and get themselves out of potentially terrible circumstances. Because they can’t find any jobs, it places them in a position of potentially being forced to re-offend just to survive.

The “Ban the Box” idea isn’t necessarily to get rid of the box itself entirely, but to remove it from applications and not to bring it up until the later stages of the interview process. Although the exact details do vary from state to state in regards of its implementation, it is currently in 11 states.

People are worthy of second chances. We shouldn’t have a singular action define their entire future. “Ban the Box” is meant to open the doors that have previously closed and hopefully give these individuals the chance they need to get back into society.