‘Ban the Box’ Doesn’t Cut Recidivism for Minorities: Study

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Efforts to remove questions about previous convictions from employment applications have little effect on recidivism, a new study finds.

Ryan Sherrand, an economics professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara, examined data from states and jurisdictions that have passed “Ban the Box” (BTB) policies from 2000 to 2016 and found “little evidence that BTB policies are reducing recidivism.”

In recent years, politicians and advocates have pushed for legislation to reduce the barriers for employment for the almost 700,000 ex-offenders released from state and federal prisons each year. In an effort to reduce recidivism, 25 states have adopted “Ban the Box” policies that prevent employers from asking applicants about their criminal record.

“Ban the Box” policies have grown in popularity because previous research has shown that job “applicants with a prior conviction were 63 percent less likely to be called back,” Sherrand wrote.

While employers will eventually be able to run background checks before hiring with BTB, proponents of new policies hope that by just allowing ex-offenders to “get their foot in the door,” with a potential interview, it will increase employment, the study explains.

But Sherrand’s study, titled, ‘Ban the Box’ Policies and Criminal Recidivism, found that such policies might have had the opposite impact for African American ex-offenders.

When focusing on the race variable in his data, Sherrand concluded that “…being released into a labor market with a BTB policy is associated with higher rates of recidivism for black ex-offenders (6.75 percent average increase), with little to no effect for white ex-offenders (2.7 percent average decrease).”

A potential explanation that Sherrand gives for this disparity is that “black workers are 30 percent more likely to be public employees than other workers,” and, “black ex-offenders may then be particularly vulnerable to the effects of laws which affect the public sector, as BTB policies do.”

The full draft study can be accessed here.

Additional Reading: GA Report Links Lenient Sentencing to Recidivism

This summary was prepared by TCR staff writer Andrea Cipriano.

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