When I became unemployed, I started classes through our state’s career development center. I’ve sat in class with some very smart, articulate and, for the most part, quite attractive students. (Please don’t tell my husband I said that!)
My classmates work harder and longer than most of the others. Despite their hard work, however, I have an 80% better chance of getting an interview than they do. They’re from a population of over 1.6 million people in North Carolina.
There’s one thing that gives me the advantage. It’s not my education, skills or experience but because I don’t have to check “the box.” Since I’ve not committed a felony – or at least not been caught – I’m not labeled an “ex-offender.”
When an honest applicant checks the box, most employers take one look at the form and throw it in the discard file.
In essence, “the box” puts them right back in a cage. This box is as discriminatory as asking a person’s age, or age-identifying information, on job applications.
If that employer would grant an interview, they would understand that these applicants are trying to move from where they are to where they want to be. They just need a fair chance. In return, employers will be rewarded with a loyal, hard-working person who feels s/he has to go over and beyond expectations.
Critics say the so-called “ban the box” movement poses a danger. Like many issues, these are people who haven’t educated themselves with the facts. Recidivism has dropped but so has employment for ex-offenders. They have been through intensive training. I’ve talked with five or six and every single one says, “I’m never going back; if I have to dig ditches or haul dirt, that’s what I’ll do.”
Success is within our reach
Here’s what happens when someone looks beyond the record: In 2000, Dennis Gaddy, a businessman and law school graduate, found himself serving more than five years in jail for a poor financial decision. Gaddy turned his situation into a message, creating the Community Success Initiative (CSI) in 2004. He is now the director of CIS.
I’d like to hear from you – especially if you’re an employer or a critic – to help me better understand why the issue persists, despite anti-discrimination laws so I can educate myself on how to help ban the box.
For more information and how you can help:
In North Carolina, you can write your representative in support of HB 233, aka Ban the Box. Many states have introduced similar legislation including like Georgia, Illinois, Minnesota and municipalities like Charlotte, NC; Kansas City, MO; Philadelphia, PA; and many counties.
If you need casual labor, or would consider giving a person with the skills needed, an interview, please contact me.