“Ban The Box” Laws Spread; Evidence Of Crime Reduction Inconclusive


Washington, D.C.’s City Council has passed a law that forbids asking about criminal history on most job applications, a step being considered by Georgia, Michigan, New York, and other states, says the New York Times. After more than 25 years of tough-on-crime laws and the incarceration of millions of low-level drug offenders, the effort is part of a bipartisan re-evaluation of the justice system and reflects a growing concern that large numbers of people, especially African-Americans, who have been disproportionately jailed, remain marginalized from the work force and at greater risk of returning to crime. “There's been a shift in people away from wanting to get even,” said Marc Levin of Right on Crime, a conservative anti-crime group in Texas. “People are focused now on getting results. It really is a great benefit to public safety if ex-offenders are able to get jobs, find places to live and get occupational licenses — whether it's from the perspective of the ex-offender or those of us who are going to live next to them.”

During the past several months, states and cities as varied as Illinois; Nebraska; New Jersey; Indianapolis; Louisville, and New Orleans and have adopted so-called Ban the Box laws. In total, some 70 cities and 13 states have passed such laws — most in the past four years. The laws generally prohibit employers from asking applicants about criminal records as an initial step in the hiring process and from running criminal background checks until job seekers are considered serious candidates for an opening. Most Ban the Box laws have been enacted so recently that there is little conclusive evidence that they reduce recidivism or unemployment among ex-offenders.

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