Today is the National Digital Day of Action to #BantheBox where advocates across the country are urging President Obama to issue an executive order to end the government sanctioned discrimination of people with criminal histories.
Ban the Box is the name given to the movement to remove the question about criminal history from applications. This blocks opportunity for people with criminal histories essentially placing a “scarlet letter” from employment, housing, and public benefits.
Many employers and landlords use the question as a screening tool, arbitrarily denying people with criminal histories any meaningful consideration for jobs, homes and public benefits without considering the experience and other mitigating factors that may make those people eminently qualified.
Banning the Box will provide the 70 million Americans with criminal histories – many of them for petty offenses or long-ago convictions – a better opportunity to acclimate to mainstream society and return to their loved ones.
The Ban the Box movement began with All of Us or None in California, a national people powered organization of the formerly incarcerated. What began as a small group huddled together in the Oakland hills has gained momentum throughout the country. Beginning with Hawaii in 1998, 17 states have enacted laws or issued executive orders removing the question of criminal history from employment applications to public agencies or private firms, some to both, because of the advocacy efforts of the grassroots. In addition, over 100 counties, cities, and municipalities have also enacted some type of Ban the Box legislation.
This work has true bipartisan support, with Rep. Governor Nathan Deal of Georgia issuing an executive order removing the question from all applications for employment Georgia state agencies in February, and with 27 Democratic senators personally contacting the president to do the same on a federal level.
It is crucial that President Obama issue an executive order to Ban the Box through the federal hiring process and continue the deep reforms that he and former Attorney General Eric Holder undertook in the criminal justice arena. Both recognized that the “tough on crime” approach of the 1980s has devastated entire communities and cities. For 30 years this approach has terrorized families of color, especially black men, black women and transgender women.
President Obama would be sending an unmistakable and strong message to the country that the 70 million Americans with criminal histories and their loved ones deserve a chance at life.
Join the national digital day of action to ban the box. Use the hashtags #banthebox and #fairchance and share the “I support” image above on your social media.