State may ‘ban the box’

In today’s job market, times are tough — especially if you’re an ex-con.

That is why New Haven community activist groups are trying to push a bill through the Connecticut State Assembly that would require the state, as well as certain organizations with which it has contracts, to offer jobs to potential employees before asking if they have criminal records. The move comes one year after New Haven’s Board of Aldermen passed similar “Ban the Box” legislation. Mayor John DeStefano Jr. joined local community activists at a press conference Tuesday to express the city’s support for the state bill, which State Reps. Tim O’Brien, of New Britain, Conn., and Ernest Hewett, of New London, Conn., brought before the assembly last month.

“New Haven understands that extending opportunities informs our quality of life,” DeStefano said. “Everyone is better when everyone works.”

The proposed state bill is also supported by the New Haven-based advocacy group Time Served, A Chance Deserved, which aims to make it easier for people who have been incarcerated to find employment.

The effort to pass the “Ban the Box” bill on the state level follows its success in New Haven last year. In February 2009 the board voted 22–1 to remove from city-related job applications the question requiring applicants to indicate whether they had criminal records. The legislation also removed the question from the job applications of vendors that have contracts with the city.

Kimberly Clark, a member of Mothers for Justice, a New Haven-based group of women dedicated to improving the lives of low-income families, also spoke Tuesday in favor of “Ban the Box.” In a tear-filled address, Clark, who has a 10-year-old felony conviction, said she feels a sense of shame when she must check the “yes” box next to the question: “Have you ever been convicted of a criminal offense (felony or misdemeanor)?” on employment applications.

Typically, when a person indicates that he or she has a criminal record on an employment application, the potential employer runs a background check, according to the proposed state bill.

“Because of current business practices, people will never know what a hell of a good employee I will be,” Clark said.

Antone Deek, CEO of Armor All Protection LLC, a New Haven-based security firm, who has also been convicted of a criminal offense, said he is “living proof” that a past criminal record does not need to affect a person’s future. He said his company is proud not to ask about a potential employee’s criminal record on its employment forms.

“We’re not thinking in the box anymore,” Deek said. “We’re thinking out of the box — we’re thinking ‘Ban the Box.’”

Members of the Time Served, A Chance Deserved movement plan to visit Hartford Thursday to meet with state legislators and encourage them to pass the “Ban the Box” legislation.

The bill is currently docketed before the General Assembly, though it has not been altered by the assembly since March 12.

Comments

  • Killed by Speeders on Elm Street

    This is a health issue.

    Deny people work and you deny them health, a basic human right.

  • Laurie

    Box or no box, pending cases and convictions for the past 10 years can be viewed by anybody for free on the Department of Justice website.

    Rather than focus on a box, why not expand tax incentives for businesses to hire folks with crimal records, create stronger linkages between the Department of Corrections and employers to provide supervised employment for folks coming out of prison on parole or probation, and encouraging people with 10 year old felonies to apply for pardons?

    If I were an employer, absent the above items, I would just look up applicants on the DOJ website, and, all other things being equal, I would choose the person without the record.

  • spago54

    How does one with a felony conviction manage to run a security company in New Haven? I thought those with criminal records were forbidden to run or work for a security company. Apparently no current law in regards to immigration or public safet is considered valid in New Haven.

  • Laurie

    Winston Churchill said, “Any man who is under 30, and is not a liberal, has not heart; and any man who is over 30, and is not a conservative, has no brains.”

    10 years ago, as a community activist who lived in a suburb and had never been victim or known a victim of a crime, I probably would have been all in favor of Ban the Box. I was a believer that social consciousness and kindheartedness cures all.

    I still consider myself a socially concerned person, but experience, including working regularly with folks involved in the legal system, teaches that there are many different types of crimes and many different types of ex-cons. Some are truly reformed; some would like to be reformed but leaving prison with no money, job, or place to live sets them up to reoffend; and some are truly antisocial and have no intention of being law abiding citizens.

    Being lenient with this last group puts innocent people at risk. Look at the perpetrators of the Cheshire home invasion. I don’t think anybody, no matter how liberal, would feel comfortable having guys like these as co-workers, or driving our children’s school busses, etc. Maybe, hopefully, one day we will know how to rehabilitate them, but right now we don’t.

    At the end of the movie “Magnolia,” the police officer says “Sometimes people need a little help. Sometimes people need to be forgiven. And sometimes they need to go to jail. And that’s a very tricky thing on my part… making that call.”

    I think that’s one of the wisest things I’ve ever heard when it comes to dealing with ex-cons, many of whom have been victimized themselves. They need compassion, all of them. And some of them need, in addition to compassion, special monitoring and oversight to ensure that more people are not victimized. This requires nuanced thinking and planning that goes far beyond “Ban the Box.”

  • Brubaker

    I’m pretty sure they’ve been ignoring the box and many applicants records since day 1.

  • Reformed Observer

    Maybe people convicted or charged with a crime once, can finally be free of discrimination and look towards a future beyond repeat offenses and prison ! I salute Elis and the Democrats for touching upon the subject and proposing these marvelous pieces of legislation. We must remember that people change and bad things can happen to good people.

    I think a model law would be the law NY and MA state have with regard to employment (public and private) and criminal conviction. Employers in NY & MA must consider reahbilitation and wether or not the offense is job related.

    I love YAle right now ! People wil finally be able to bury the past and move on. Especially non violent offenders.

  • shawshark redeeming

    So we can protect imprisoned officials,State Reps base head relatives and corrupt cops who are jailed and promise the bubbas and white supremacist jobs as long as they not harm them or love them in any way . They went to the well with this one but the “box” was what they were told upon arrival in Human Services. So the revolving door of crime lands the louts in prison once again where ….

  • Reformed Observer

    @shawsharkredeeming
    Some people just make mistakes in life and change. The MA and NY laws as they are written do NOT protect corrupt politicians and corrupt cops etc.. and neither will the proposed law in CT. Just read the employment discrimination laws of MA and NY as they stand and you will see that they are reasonable and not controversial.

    I challenge anyone who stands in opposition to the NY and MA employment discrimination laws to a serious academic debate. I also ask the opposition members wether or not they are truly familiar the proposed CT law and the employment laws of MA and NY which pertain to employing persons with criminal convictions.

    I humbly await responses “shawshark redeeming” and other false progressives and skeptics.

  • believer

    I believe there are people who make mistakes and bad choices and some people who choose and enjoy breaking the laws and doing bad things to people. But those who look down their noses at ex-cons are missing one solid fact there is not us and them we are all capable of the same things. we are all capable of malice and bad choices. These people who are no different from us deserve a chance a chance to prove themselves. And a chance to have a life. Everyone has a stereotype about prisoners that says just because someone is an ex-con means they must be a murderer or a rapist, but we are just showing our own prejudice by believing that not wanting to give these people the right to have the opportunities we do. The biggest reason for recidivism is the fact that these people cannot find jobs. They can’t afford a place to live. How are they suppose to survive it is almost as if the prejudice and laws of the country have made it impossible for ex-cons to succeed. So the question is if you made one mistake (as that is all it takes)and after you paid your dues and where released with your gate money and no where to go no one would hire you and you had no one to turn to for help what would you do in order to survive. I support ban the box there are regulations and laws that can be enforced to ensure public safety. But we have to compromise some where in the middle and help people or else nothing will get done and it will continue to be a vicious cycle. Anyone who wants to gripe about their tax dollars going toward funding the ever growing prison population and doesn’t see the potential of this legislation is a fool.

  • Ralph

    I think that when you do your time. You did your time. You shouldn’t be a “felon” forever. People do make mistakes and people do grow up. I think that the bad thing is that if you can’t get housing or a job for that matter it might make “felon”s go back to prison or jail since they can’t get a job or proper housing.