Ban the Box Campaign
The movement to Ban the Box was created in 2004 by the Human Rights Coalition of Formerly Incarcerated People, known as All of Us or None, as a strategy to confront the structural discrimination formerly-incarcerated people face in many areas of life, most specifically employment and housing applications, by removing “the box” on applications requiring applicants to declare if they have been convicted of a felony. Many studies prove that individuals required to check this box have a much lower chance of being called in for an interview and acquiring employment. The numbers are even lower for people of color, adding to the wage and employment discrimination they face already. It has been proven that access to employment is the most critical factor in reducing recidivism, and that “the box” on applications is a major deterrent to employment.
By removing the box on applications, an applicant with a criminal record is given the opportunity to apply for a job based on their applicable job skills alone. After the interview process, a potential employer who has offered them the job may then do a background check and inquire about their record. We see this as a fair opportunity for both the applicant and the employer.
Banning the box will help formerly convicted and incarcerated people regain their independence by removing unfair barriers to obtaining housing and employment, enabling them to turn away from the revolving door of the criminal justice system so that they may return to their communities with dignity.
Communities in states and cities that ban the box stand to benefit from the legislation in several ways. It has been demonstrated that a stable community requires individuals who are gainfully employed. It also saves taxpayer dollars. Creating job training opportunities for those with a criminal record ultimately pays off when they begin to pay income taxes. It also saves the annual cost of approximately $31,286 to house an inmate in a U.S. prison. Perhaps most importantly, successful Ban the Box campaigns have resulted in lower crime rates in the areas where they are implemented.
Over 100 cities across 17 states have adopted some form of box removal, and more are pushing for this kind of legislation every year. President Obama recently delivered a speech to the NAACP outlining the necessity to reverse the effects of mass incarceration, including his intention to ban the box on a national level. With more assistance on the local level from people like you, we can hold President Obama and his administration accountable to their words and ensure that we are carrying out fair and just hiring practices nationwide.
How You Can Help End Mass Incarceration?
- Write a letter to president Barack Obama to “Ban the Box.”
- Collect signatures for a “Ban the Box” petition. Send the completed petition to President Obama.
- Contact your financial adviser to find out if your mutual or index funds hold shares in companies that are part of the private prison industry. They will be able to provide alternative investment options in other businesses unaffiliated with the prison industry.
- Start or join a divestment campaign at your university to divest endowments from the private prison industry.
Written by Jefferson Generella and Greg Lorentzen