City to end ‘felony box’

It is a four-millimeter checkbox stationed next to a simple question — “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” — that some city officials say prevents released prisoners from successfully reintegrating into society.

“The problem with the felony box is that it is an endbox around the law,” Community Services Administration consultant Deborah Marcuse ’97 LAW ’08 said in an interview Monday. “It discriminates unfairly against formerly incarcerated persons who don’t know their economic rights.”

The CSA, with the support of Mayor John DeStefano Jr., will introduce new legislation in Monday’s Board of Aldermen meeting called “Ban the Box,” which the CSA say will provide greater employment opportunities to the city’s prison reentry population. If the bill passes, the city government (and government-employed vendors) will no longer ask about a potential employee’s criminal background in the first stage of the application process.

Such an initiative already exists in San Francisco, Boston and Chicago, where city positions are first offered to applicants before employers conduct a criminal background check. If the applicant possesses a criminal record, city officials determine whether the past offense would affect the applicant’s ability to fulfill their job. Past offenders are automatically barred only from positions as schoolteachers and as sworn officials, such as policemen.

City Hall Spokeswoman Jessica Mayorga said the initiative is meant to rehabilitate ex-convicts and prevent them from committing crimes in the city again.

“If nobody will employ them, many times they will revert to criminal behavior,” Mayorga said.

New Haven is currently one of four cities in Connecticut considering the “Ban the Box” initiative — similar prospective legislation has also been introduced in Hartford, Bridgeport and Norwich, Marcuse said. Most cities nationwide involved with the “Ban the box” initiative are pushing legislation that only covers applications for city positions, not positions offered by private vendors contracted by the city. New Haven’s proposed legislation would cover applications for both city positions and city-employed vendors. Though the city’s initiative is more sweeping than most, it does not encompass applications for private businesses around the city. Mayorga said the city’s legislation will not go further than city vendors, at least for now.

“We’re starting it by setting the example ourselves,” Mayorga said.

Though the Department of Correction employs a variety of programs in order to reduce prisoner recidivism, DOC Spokesman Brian Garnett said the department takes no official position on the “Ban the Box” program, deciding instead to leave it to local legislative bodies to decide whether the measure is appropriate for the city.

After the “Ban the Box” legislation is introduced to the Board of Aldermen and assigned to an aldermanic committee, Marcuse and Community Services Administrator Kica Matos will answer questions about the issue at a public hearing slated to occur in January.


  • Anonymous

    Yet another reason not to start a business in New Haven.

  • to #28

    In fact, there are many "real thinkers" who come out of these societies.

    Scroll & Key graduated Fareed Zakaria, one of America's greatest foreign policy minds; John Enders, who cultured the polio virus; and Benjamin Spock, who wrote one of the most popular books of all time, on child rearing.

    Wolf's Head had Charles Ives, one of the greatest modern classical composers, among others.

    Skull & Bones includes Irving Fisher, one of the great economists and founder of the "Fisher equation"; William F Buckley, public conservative intellectual and founder of the National Review; John Hersey, Pulitzer-prize winning author of "Hiroshima", and
    Austan Goolsbee, one of Obama's top economic advisors.

    Your belief, that those "whose ideas actually form the raison d'etre for places like Yale" do not partake in the "turbo-charged frats" is wrong.

  • Rehabilitation

    The comment by #1 is indicative of a larger cultural and political problem in the U.S., but nowhere more evident than CT.

    The automatic assumption is that someone who is a felony is a) a morally bad person and b) unable to ever contribute to society again. If b) were true, then all felony convictions should be for life, which, luckily, is not the case. But the stigmatization of released felons who have completed parole, etc., is ultimately a reason for recidivism. If you can't get a job, because no one will hire you, it certainly increases the likelihood of returning to crime, wehther theft, fraud, blackmail, etc.

    Furthermore, problem a) is intimately tied to public perceptions of race and class. "Once a criminal, always a criminal," seems to be the thought, and it ends up being a self-fulfilling prophecy. With white-collar criminals, no one seems to object to them returning to the workforce. Martha Stewart, Enron execs. etc. will undoubtedly be rehired as soon as they finish their sentences, because no one supposes that rich, white criminals are somehow bound to repeat their crimes.

    Prison is a civil system of punishment by which we remove those who trespass public good for a time. We abandoned the branding and the stocks punishment is not now thought to be permanent (in theory) and humiliation is not the point, but rather forcing people to change their ways.

    But here in CT, the idea seems to be that the way to solve crime problems is to lock up everyone until the problem goes away from sight. Not away entirely, just away from those who don't want to deal with it. We push our problems into housing ghettoized by race and class and into the prisons themselves; as long as it does not disrput the lives of our democratic liberal "paradise," then the system "works."

    I'd challenge Anonymous #1, if he or she is still around, to answer why the system we have now is just, and if so, why isn't a lifetime prison colony a better idea. That way everyone in society will have never comitted a crime. Everything will be peaceable — for us, no? I'm sure they'd appreciate Martha Stewart's cooking there, too.

  • ronnie

    "Have you ever been convicted of a crime"?
    "Have you ever been convicted of a Felony"? are two different animals

    i agree with commenter #1 ,Many of these applicants will cause problems in their employ,the same problems that they cause if not employed,I have seen it way too many times in the workplace.

    It is sadly used as a double edged sword by Municipalities, mainly New Havens
    when it suits their need the person who was convicted of a minor crime and NOT a Felony will be passed on by the person who checks "YES" on his Felony question.
    It would depend on the political status of applicants and cover themselves from litigation ,

  • yes but…

    Euclid, Feynman, Witten, Einstein, Godel and Newton were never Yale undergraduates…

    …Your ridiculous reverence for the sciences proves that you too are limited. Have you no consideration for the study of the humanities?
    Indeed the nature of Bones, Keys etc. is humanities and social science based, rather than natural science based because those societies were founded at Yale COLLEGE - not the Sheffield Scientific School. J.W.Gibbs can't have been in Bones as he was in the SSS - he could have been in Berzelius, St. A's or Book and Snake but I can't find that anywhere.

    Your strange reverence for the natural sciences has evidently blinded you to history. you seem to fall into the trap of the zealot and the brainwashed in repeating your science-mantra Anyway, why do we necessarily care if people remember those in Secret Societies?

    …Perhaps in this country, the most famous member of any secret society was George Washington. A freemason. But hey, he probably won't be remembered by history (cough cough).

    Indeed, you forget to mention Galileo, who was a member of the Illuminati, and a ton of scientists who formed secret societies at the time of the Renaissance against the church.
    Both Herder and Goethe were part of the Bavarian Illuminati too.
    What about other literary men? Yeats: part of the hermetic order of the Golden Dawn, Oscar Wilde: part of the Order of Chaeronea… And so on.

    Great, to my knowledge Derrida, Lacan, Althusser, Marx, Freud, Hegel, Heidegger, Aristotle, Plato, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein etc. might not have been in secret clubs, but they were all part of select organizations like universities and thinktanks. Secret Societies are simply an extension of this: they were and still are a place for sharing ideas. Oh, and they give out scholarships to great thinkers to allow them to continue their work: see Harold Bloom's John Addison Porter Prize awarded by Keys.
    Plus, to call scholars such as Maynard Mack, Giamatti and W.L Phelps "English Teachers" is insulting. Simply because your ritualistic over-valorization of science as the primary mode of historical dialectic doesn't take any notice of the humanities and cannot see its own flaws (have we not learned that there can be no truth but particular truth?), do not denegrate real scholarship. You are simply falling into a realm of ignorance which cannot see its own flaws and the sparks of truth all around it.

    And hey, even Pythagoras was in a secret society!

  • crime

    yeah, i know what you mean. i once flattened a penny on a railroad track with with preschool class, which is not only defacing currrrency, but i think it's probably also some sort of property damage, sabotage. and then i applied for a job, and i mentioned that, and then just like that, the job went to someone else. the city and the government should really do more for people like me. i feel so discriminated against.

  • Roland Tommaso

    Hey "crime" you should have used your head - on the railroad tracks - please have someone fill out your application for you, like a Lawyer.
    that reminds me ,i knew a townie who checked "no" on the box and was passed for someone who checked yes, it was a case of a City employ contacted the desk at One Union and the cop says ,"oh yeah,number one is the felon and number two is not …??
    It was sent along to Corporation counsel who nulled the application ,by the time the townie found out the C.O was long gone ,so you basically will need a Lawyer to guide your application
    AND your $500 to the Union and the $500 to the Alder presiding on the Human resources board at the time

  • sf

    I understand not demonizing criminals but why should a criminal have the same rights or jon perspectives as someone who has followed the law, particularly for a job funded by taxpayers

  • @#6

    Because they are, hopefully, FORMER criminals. They've done their time, fulfilled their sentences. Once they re-enter society, they are (or should be) entitled to all the rights and protections of any other citizen of the USA. Our justice system has precautions against letting people believed to be incapable of reform take what is not due to them, putting them away for life being one of them--which the taxpayers also pay for, by the way. I think we are fortunate that we live in a country where someone can make a successful life for himself even if he did steal or do drugs when he was young (a fictional but credible example being Dr. Foreman on House--a good doctor who saves lives but stole some cars when he was a teenager), or even not so young. I saw a headline just today that said that coinciding with the hard economic times there has been a rise in shoplifting. Do you really think those people who have been forced to steal deserve to be limited in their lawful money-making opportunities? I have always considered such sentiments contrary to the spirit of equality that we aim for in America.

  • Joey

    Anybody with a criminal record IS NOT eligible for Neighborhood Housing
    Anyone with any kind of criminal record
    IS NOT eligible for Habitat for Humanity

    so there is No point in giving these types any kind of municipal job,the jobs go to folks who will build strong communities,and of course rewarded with the home

    Any problem with that you go stright to Mike Morands office, Levin, Bruce Alexander - more than anyone at Yale is the Union in place (Mr.nepotism and PAC man Proto especially)

    Dare you ingrates to talk to the Bd.of ED of New Haven, Mr.Destiff u all know and love (loathe,depending on the check huh?)

    evry fly speck of crap in between