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'Ban the box' is needed [Letter]

12:45 PM EST, January 10, 2014

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We appreciate Dan Rodricks' long history of supporting employment opportunities for Maryland's released prison inmates returning to society and we applaud his efforts to articulate the importance of those opportunities for successful reentry and reducing recidivism ("'Honesty in hiring' beats 'ban the box,'" Jan. 7).

We agree that it is better for an employer to know a person's criminal record before hiring him; and we think the Baltimore City Council's effort to "ban the box" on private employer applications does just that.

Ban the box legislation allows employers to check backgrounds later in the hiring process, allowing qualified job candidates who happen to have a criminal record to be interviewed instead of being summarily dismissed by a check box. Too many citizens are out of work because a criminal record limits their ability to get an interview. Banning the box allows returning citizens to at least get their foot in the door, and that is a very important step.

Research shows the chances of an application being considered is greatly reduced after a box for having a criminal record has been checked. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, concerned about a growing number of Americans unable to find employment because of this, recently issued updated guidelines encouraging employers not to overlook "Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964," which states that an "employer's use of an individual's criminal history in making employment decisions may, in some instances, violate the prohibition against employment discrimination."

Banning the box is a sound policy that will help strengthen families and communities across our the. Ultimately that will help us achieve the public safety goals we all share.

Greg Carpenter and John Mello

The writers are members of the Greater Baltimore Grassroots Criminal Justice Network.

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