Applying for a job can be very stressful for anyone and everyone, especially if that person has a criminal record. Ban the Box is an American campaign created by civil rights groups and advocates for ex-offenders, aimed at persuading employers to remove the box that asks applicants if they have a criminal record. Why is this international campaign so important? And how does it benefit society?
Studies suggest that 1-in-8 Canadians suffer from a criminal record, in the US that number is even greater. In the US alone, 700,000 people are released annually from prison, they are given $50 and sent home to rebuild their lives and hopefully, not reoffend. The latter can pose difficult considering most job applications with an indication of a criminal record are tossed out by potential employers. It’s important to note that 80% of offenses are low level and non-violent such as shoplifting, impaired driving, cannabis possession, and the like.
When companies choose to Ban the Box, they are giving ex-offenders a second chance. It’s not about never asking the question regarding a criminal record, it’s about when. Delaying the timing of the question let’s people with a criminal record meet face to face rather than letting a box preclude them from having an opportunity to be considered a viable candidate. After all, employers aren’t hiring a box, they are hiring a person. A box doesn’t tell you the age the offense occurred, the circumstances which led to the offense, or the type of offense. Consider this, cannabis is legal in several US states now, what if the offense was a possession charge?
Work is central to our culture and when we put people to work, we reduce crime. It’s been said it’s cheaper to hire than it is to jail. Turning people with a criminal record into taxpayers saves money, keeps people safe, and it is fair. It’s not to say someone with an embezzlement charge should work in a bank, but could they not be a Physicist or a Dental Hygienist? When saving money interlaces with improved public safety, even allows society to significantly improve the lives of others at the same time, it seems like a win-win situation.
Ban the Box has been successful in the US and in the United Kingdom. In Canada, Ban the Box initiatives are less necessary because of our pardon and/or record suspension programs that already minimize the impact of criminal records on employment. A record suspension, formerly known as a Canadian pardon gives ex-offenders an opportunity to apply to have their record removed from the CPIC (Canadian Police Information Centre) database, giving individuals employment, travel, and volunteer opportunities.
AllCleared was founded on the principle that everyone deserves a second chance. For 30 years, we have worked with law-enforcement and the Parole Board of Canada to support restorative justice and criminal rehabilitation. Helping people with a criminal record start fresh, gain employment, and build a new life is something AllCleared is dedicated and committed to do for many more years to come. Nothing stops reoffending like a job.