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Ban-the-box Policies Provide Conundrum for Employers

When filling out a job application, there are a number of similar questions that many employers like to ask. On specific questions, a "yes" or "no" answer could be the difference in the company extending an offer.

A question that falls into that category, "have you ever been convicted of a felony?"

The "ban the box" movement is attempting to remove this question from as many job applications as possible.

Advocates of the policy recognize that ex-convicts need a second chance and know the effect a job can have on the ex-cons as it provides them with money as well as lowers the chances that individual returns to a jail cell.

Advocates also believe that ex-offenders can be a valuable source of labor for their companies. Some managers, who have decided to ban the box, believe the ex-felons are their most dedicated workers, likely because they believe they have been given a second chance and will not be given a third.

According to the National Employment Law Project, a New York-based advocacy group, there are 24 states that have adopted ban the box policies as well as 150 cities and counties.

Although these numbers are growing, supporters of a ban-the-box policy know that they will never get all employers to remove the question from their applications.

There are several reasons why an employer could be hesitant to hire an ex-felon. Besides a perceived lack of character or low level of judgement, statistics show that many are likely to return to prison. Today, numbers appear to be dropping, but still 31% of those paroled return to prison within three years.

Ex-convicts, on top of their felony charges, also have high illiteracy rates and suspended driver's licenses. Those that advocate "ban the box" are not considering the concern other employees or customers may have with an ex-con.

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