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'Ban-the-box' law unlikely to change hiring practices [Letter]

Columnist Dan Rodricks is correct that "Ban the Box" is "feel-good legislation whose effectiveness is supported by good intentions rather than by the evidence ("'Ban the box' feels good but won't achieve much," March 22).

It won't make any difference. Negligent hiring is a tort action by which a plaintiff can recover damages from an employer who hires an ex-offender, if the ex-offender commits a crime against the plaintiff in the course of his or her duties of employment. Historically, 72 percent of plaintiffs prevail when litigating negligent hiring claims against employers.

In these cases, litigants are awarded an average of $1.6 million in punitive and compensatory damages. Simply removing a box from an application will not make it more likely that an employer will risk this type of exposure.

However, take issue with one of Mr. Rodricks' points. In Baltimore City at any given time, almost 50 percent of African-American males between the ages of 18-35 are under the control of the criminal justice system, either incarcerated or under supervision. Given these circumstances, hiring ex-offenders can't be viewed as a mere luxury or, as you put it, an act of "generosity." Only when we begin to view employing ex-offenders as a matter of public safety will we begin to make progress on this issue.

It is unreasonable to think that we can alienate such a significant portion of the African-American population from the job market without severe repercussions. Our murder and crime rates prove this. Studies show that employment, even marginal employment, reduces recidivism significantly for offenders ages 27 and above.

The communities that suffer the majority of the violence in the city need help addressing this issue. Clearly, the communities need to do their part in cooperating with police. But residents who live in communities rarely affected by the violence in the city can also assist in addressing the issue by making an effort to hire ex-offenders who've demonstrated that they are prepared to conduct themselves appropriately in the workplace.

As Mr. Rodricks rightly stated, we would all benefit if re-entry programs were linked directly to small- and medium-sized businesses that provided job opportunities for program graduates. He deserves thanks for his hard work and advocacy regarding this issue.

Maurice Vann

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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