Category: Public Policy
So, why do we look at the numbers? We do not review the numbers simply to gauge the rates of criminality, initial incarceration, and relapse. But the numbers also give us a sense of urgency about the need to appropriately reengage former offenders and an idea about the window of opportunity to do so. Furthermore, the numbers reveal the need for more opportunities, fair chance laws, and supportive services for individuals with criminal backgrounds.
The subject of fair chance laws lends to the issue of a little-known concept called “Ban-the-Box.” As people return to society with criminal records they are likely aware of most challenges they will face. The range of challenges can go as far as gaining employment, establishing independent living, acquiring a driver license or student loan, or having access to healthcare and other social service benefits. These factors can be a set-up for failure even for those with the best intentions causing them to reoffend and reenter the criminal justice system. Under these difficult circumstances, there is a law that you should know about that may increase your chances of obtaining new employment for those on a quest to reenter the workforce.
The “Ban-the-Box” or “Fair Chance” law addresses the issue of whether, or not an employer can include questions about an individual’s criminal background or convictions on employment applications. Currently, there are seventeen (17) states who have adopted “Ban-the-Box” laws including California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia.
With over 100,000 (about 15%) of adult African American Detroiters (ages 25 - 54) with felony records in 2010, Detroit adopted a "Ban-the-Box" ordinance and further required contractors and vendors with the City to completely remove criminal history questions from applications. However, adopting a form of the fair chance ordinance for employment and housing vendors who receive grants from the City still did not apply to private employers and landlords. But, although the law was gaining ground, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder opposed legislation that would require government or private employers to remove questions about criminal or credit histories from applications. Instead, the "Local Government Regulatory Limitation Act" was signed into law on March 26, 2018. The law states that employers located in cities and counties in the State of Michigan are, in fact, prohibited from adopting "ban-the-box" ordinances for felony convictions, in effect, reversing the menial progress made.
It should also be noted that “Ban-the-Box” laws only prohibit employers from asking about your criminal history until after you have been identified as a viable candidate for a job. Know the law in your state and check the links below for more information.
RESOURCES FOR RETURNING CITIZENS SECTION
Bureau of Justice Statistics
CBS News Article: “Once a criminal, always a criminal?” (April 2014)
Business Insider: “Why is Norway’s prison system so successful?” (December 2014)
Jobs for Felons Hub: “Will a felony show up after seven years?”
Federal Trade Commission: Fair Credit Reporting Act
Goodwill Industries: “Understand your employment rights as a person with a criminal background”
Employment Law Lookout: "Michigan Bans Local Ban-the-box Laws"
ACLU: Request for Fair Chance in Detroit Ordinance Overview
Welcome to The Community Advocate Network. My name is Deborah Mitchell, I am a graduate in Social Work and Registered Social Work Technician. My human service background began in 2007 which includes medical case management and service navigation for the indigent population, outpatient mental health counseling with substance use and abuse disorders, supportive employment and job development for mental health consumers, and structured living domicile management.