Today, about 70 million adults in the US have criminal records. This leaves them scuffling to find jobs for felons that can actually sustain their daily lives. Does Ban the Box handle this? Or, does racism stop it in its tracks?
Will Employers Hire Ex-Offenders? Employer Preferences, Background Checks, and Their Determinants
A study was conducted by the Institute for Research on Poverty (IRP) back in 2004. It determined how many employers were willing to hire ex-offenders after conducting criminal background checks on felony applicants.
Between 1992 and May 1994, more than 3,000 employers took part in the survey from the following metropolitan areas:
- Los Angeles
They were asked if they were willing to hire felons with criminal records:
- 5% said they would definitely consider them
- 38% said maybe they would, maybe they wouldn’t
- More than 60% said probably not or definitely not
According to these stats, a person being released from prison stood very little chance of landing a good job as a felon. And, when you look at the staggering number of men and women incarcerated back in the 90s, there’s no doubt this had a major impact on today’s mass incarceration numbers.
What Is the Ban the Box Movement?
Fast forward to 2018, and you have the Ban the Box movement. This is an effort to address such issues. It stems from the All of Us or None grassroots civil and human rights organization.
In 2004, Ban the Box (BTB) made the call for the removal of the box on job applications that asks applicants if they have criminal records. If you’re a felon looking for a job, you simply check this box and move on to the rest of the app.
There are no lines for explanations. This checkbox is very straightforward. The idea is that many job applications never even get viewed simply because of this box.
BTB’s main purpose is to remove this box from job applications altogether. Experts and prison loved ones consider this to be one of the most substantial roadblocks to employment for people with criminal pasts.
It’s almost impossible to secure even an interview when felons seeking jobs have to report their pasts on their applications.
Since 2004, this efficient solution to finding jobs for felons has gained quite a bit of support from both loved ones and prison advocates. Here in the US, about 150 counties and cities, as well as 33 states, have adopted BTB policies in relation to public jobs.
Large companies like Starbucks and Facebook have banned the box from their job applications. Even Dave’s Killer Bread of Oregon got onboard, challenging more companies to follow suit.
BTB movement was even endorsed by former President Barack Obama before he left office. The regulation was finalized on Wednesday, November 30, 2016. The Washington Times reported:
The Obama administration finalized a regulation Wednesday to prevent the federal government from asking job applicants about criminal records until a job has been offered, part of a series of actions that the White House said is aimed at reforming the criminal justice system.
Infographic: Where Does Your State Stand on Ban the Box?
Disadvantages of Ban the Box: Racism Continues in America
For some, Ban the Box has been a positive power in the workforce for people with criminal records. It helps create an air of confidence that they have an even chance of landing job interviews, as long as they have competitive job skills.
However, studies show there are some cons to Ban the Box. One unintended consequence is the fact that many employers still don’t want to hire felons and people with other types of criminal records.
It seems that in such cases, not having the box leaves hiring managers guessing. Without the box, they are left to make assumptions about a person’s criminal record.
And, according to the Brooking Institution, many end up assuming that applicants who are Hispanic or Black DO have criminal records of some sort, noting:
Black and Hispanic men are more likely than others to have been convicted of a crime: the most recent data suggest that a black man born in 2001 has a 32% chance of serving time in prison at some point during his lifetime, compared with 17% for Hispanic men and just 6% for white men. Employers will guess that black and Hispanic men are more likely to have been in prison, and therefore less likely to be job-ready.
Let’s recap those stats at-a-glance. When it comes to men born in 2001:
- Black men have 32% chances of serving prison time in their lifetimes
- Hispanic men have 17% chances of serving prison time in their lifetimes
- White men have 6% chances of serving prison time in their lifetimes
Ban the Box: Do the Pros Outweigh the Cons?
Yet, according to Terry-Ann Craigie, an economics professor at Connecticut College, these numbers can be misleading. She notes that these stats are based on employers’ willingness to hire people with criminal records in the private sector only.
Craigie says that things are different in the public sector, which holds 15% of all the jobs in the country. In the public job sector, there are much stricter anti-discrimination policies. She notes that research shows that policies related to BTB…
…create an overall positive affect on employment for people with criminal records.
In total, according to Craigie, local and state Ban the Box policies increase the odds of people with criminal records landing public jobs by 30%.
Ban the Box Shows Astounding Stats in North Carolina
Terry-Ann Craigie’s research shows amazing growth in jobs for felons in Durham, NC. BTB policies were implemented there in 2011. Since then, the number of people hired in public sector positions who had criminal records increased by 80%.
Yes, many employers in America do background checks. So, any criminal records are found out soon enough. Banning the box gives them a clean slate… a head start, so to speak… when first applying for jobs. This gives them the chances they need to present themselves as qualified applicants to employers…
…not just a box checked on a job application.
In other words, BTB increases chances of getting past the box, and actually getting a face-to-face interview. This gives them chances to shine through their skills and personalities, not automatically fail because of a box related to their pasts. Craigie says:
Research has shown that having that face-to-face conversation helps employers see people more as humans.
BTB Creates Face-to-Face Dialogues for Felons Seeking Jobs
Thanks to BTB, people with criminal records now have opportunities to create dialogues in relation to the pasts with job recruiters, hiring managers and potential employers. So, they can judge an applicant by their abilities, and not simply by the box and background check.
Stats show that 96% of people with criminal records in Durham who were considered for jobs ended up landing them after their background checks were ran. BTB opens up the face-to-face dialogues that creates relationships before the background checks are complete. By that time, the employer is already pleased with the applicant.
And, when it comes to racist and discriminatory hiring practices, Craigie does admit these issues do in fact exist when it comes to hiring felons and others with criminal histories. She brings attention to illegal discrimination, noting that the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission states explicitly that race can never be used as a representation of criminal status.
She notes in a Brennan Center for Justice report:
Ban the Box is being used a scapegoat for discriminatory hiring practices that have been going on for decades. Black men have always experienced it. Black men without criminal records are considerably less likely to receive interview callbacks than white men with criminal records. So are employers afraid of hiring someone with a criminal record? Or, are they afraid of hiring a black man with a criminal record?
That’s something for employers to think about.
Find Companies That Hire Felons
If you have a felony or other criminal record, finding a job can be a bit frustrating if you don’t have the right resources. Today in America, there are numerous employers that hire felons. It’s just a matter of hunting them down.
We’ve created an eBook that addresses the issues people with criminal histories face when looking for jobs. Get tips related to writing resumes when you have major gaps in your job history due to serving prison time. Learn how to answer the tough questions that hiring managers tend to ask felons.
The Felon’s 2019 Guide to Finding a Job & Becoming an Entrepreneur dives into other issues such as interview tips, background checks and more. And, for people with records trying to launch their own businesses, there are some great resources related to establishing personal and business credit.
Download this comprehensive jobs for felons guide for yourself. Or, download it and share the information with your incarcerated loved one. Just like Ban the Box teaches us, we all deserve second chances.