Stop Indiana’s anti-‘ban the box’ legislation

| April 21, 2017

By Barbara Bolling-Williams

Special to Frost Illustrated

On Tuesday, March 28, 2017, our state legislature passed an anti-ban the box bill, that if signed by the governor, will prohibit Indiana cities and towns from passing ordinances that promote fairness in hiring.  The elimination of a simple box from an employment application levels the hiring field and expands the pool of potentially great employees.

Ban the Box simply means: (1) to delay asking questions about a person’s criminal record, at the initial application stage, (2) eliminates questions about arrests that did not lead to conviction, and (3) allowing job candidates to explain and provide evidence of rehabilitation.

Right now, over 2.3 million individuals are in American prisons or jails.  Over 70 million Americans have an arrest or conviction that may show up on a background check. (This number includes people who were arrested but never convicted of a crime).  This is a pressing issue for the African American community.  While people of color are only 13 percent of the general population we comprise 40 percent of the criminal injustice system.  Studies find that African American men without a criminal record are less likely to be hired than white men with a criminal record, and the job market is even more difficult for African American men with criminal records.  However, African Americans are not the only ones that benefit from additional employment opportunities for individuals with criminal records. The entire community benefits as well.

An estimated $65 billion is wasted in lost productivity each year due to the underemployment and unemployment of individuals with criminal records.  Employment opportunities are also important for public safety because stable employment is an important predictor of which individuals with convictions will reoffend.

Ban-the-Box laws or policies have been implemented in 25 states and over 150 local communities.  In addition, a number of employers have embraced fair chance hiring and have banned the box in their employment process.  Over 300 companies signed the White House Fair Chance Business Pledge.  The signatories included large companies like Walmart and Target, and smaller organizations like Goodwill Industries of Central Indiana.

Earlier this year, Governor Eric Holcomb pardoned a man who had served eight years in prison for a crime he did not commit.  Even with the pardon the job was not done.  When this man goes to look for a job, he will still have to check the box that say “have you ever been convicted of a crime”.  More than likely, he will not be granted an interview or the opportunity to share his story and his gubernatorial pardon with a potential employer.

Please tell Governor Holcomb that the time now for him to complete his work.  Give all Hoosier’s an equal chance to reach for the America dream.  We need to forgive one another.  How long must our fellow citizens carry the burdens of past mistakes made?  They should not have to live every moment with regret.  We can all learn from our past, become better people and carry on with our heads held high.

If you remember nothing else please remember this: rejecting this bill does not stop or prohibit an employer from asking about a person’s prior criminal background.  It does not stop or prohibit an employer from doing a criminal background check.  It only shifts the questions to a time in the process when the whole person can be considered.  Please do not sign SB 312 when it comes to your desk for signature without issuing an executive order banning the box in all state employment application.

Barbara Bolling-Williams is state president of the Indiana State Conference of the

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

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Category: Community, Courts and Justice, Economics, Government

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Frost Illustrated is Fort Wayne's oldest weekly newspaper. Your Independent Voice in the Community, featuring news & views of African Americans since 1968.

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