I recently had the opportunity to talk with Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (and Democratic nominee for Florida Governor) about some areas of importance to him. One of those is an issue called “Ban the Box.”
Ban the Box is a proposal that 33 states and 150 municipalities (including Tallahassee) across the country have adopted in some fashion. Ban the Box legislation requires the removal of inquiries on an employment application form about an applicant’s criminal background. It delays the disclosure of this information until after the applicant has had an opportunity to interview with the prospective employer. The goal is to give an applicant an opportunity to demonstrate that he/she can meet the requirements of a job and not be automatically denied consideration because of his/her criminal background.
Mayor Gillum told me that he firmly believed that one of the most important things to reduce recidivism was a convicted criminal’s ability to obtain gainful employment. He noted that Ban the Box would give these individuals a better opportunity to obtain employment which, in turn, would reduce crime. Mayor Gillum was emphatic that job opportunities were critical in fighting crime.
After speaking with the Mayor, one of my partners commented to me that the Ban the Box has been gaining strength in public sector employment. He went on to say that it was somewhat of a pipe dream to believe that the Florida Legislature would pass a Ban the Box law restricting private sector employer inquiries. That may be true. Still, the National Employment Law Project reports that as of last month, 11 states and 17 municipalities have passed Ban the Box applicable to private employers. The states include: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.
With the tightening of the labor market, a number of employers are more willing to give a second chance to individuals with criminal backgrounds and past drug and alcohol abuse without having to do so in response to Ban the Box legislation.
Regardless of your political stripes, it was interesting to hear a major party candidate include an employment issue in a platform to reduce crime.