A new law passed in Richmond, California could become the model for other municipalities across the nation that hope to allow ex-offenders to become productive and employed members of their communities. According to the Huffington Post, this latest in what’s known “ban the box” laws (referring to the box on job applications that ask about previous convictions) is the most permissive one in the country.
In Richmond, the ordinance prevents employers from asking about criminal histories at any point during the application and hiring process. There are exceptions, including those jobs in law enforcement or child and elderly care. But, overall, the ordinance opens up all kinds of opportunities for men and women who may have previously struggled to find work.
Other “ban the box” laws have been passed around the state and across the country. But, most allow employers to ask about criminal histories at some point, usually after a conditional job offer or a second round of interviews. In this regard, Richmond’s law is unique.
“We’ve really taken it up a notch,” said Councilwoman Jovanka Beckles, who introduced the measure. “By introducing one of the most comprehensive plans in the country, our hope is to reduce unemployment in Richmond, reduce recidivism in Richmond and give these people who want to, a chance to make a change.”
Employment is one of the largest hurdles for men and women coming out of prison or court supervision. Employers are reluctant to hire ex-offenders no matter what their crime was or how long ago it occurred. And without a job, offenders are more likely to reoffend, sending them back into the system. It’s truly a vicious cycle.
With AB 109 aiming to reduce thousands of offenders by the end of the year, this law and others like it are particularly important.
When you have a conviction (or several) on your record, you’ll find that many people don’t want to give you the time of day, let alone a job or a place to live. While you have rights regardless of your criminal past, the key to avoiding some of these hurdles lies in avoiding a conviction in the first place.