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Reported by Andrew Scot Bolsinger
Washington D.C. City Council, led by Councilman Kenyan McDuffie, has passed a law to ban the box on job applications that require applicants to disclose their criminal history.
The effort, called the Fair Criminal Records Sentencing Act, which finally succeeded against years of opposition, is an effort to significantly lower recidivism among those re-entering society after an arrest and conviction.
Earlier this month, McDuffie’s amendment of the Fair Criminal Records Screening Act, a product of the Ban the Box movement, made it through the D.C. City Council, according to reports.
“An employer may not make any inquiry or require an applicant to disclose or reveal any criminal conviction until after making a conditional offer of employment,” the legislation reads.
San Francisco passed similar legislation. Target became one of the first national retailers to Ban the Box when Minnesota, where its corporate offices are located, passed similar legislation.
“If you look at the data, one of the primary factors that contributes to recidivism is the failure to gain meaningful employment,” McDuffie, a Democrat, told The Root. “This measure is designed to address that, to prevent employers from disqualifying individuals with records without fully considering their qualifications.”
“For years we’ve said that if you commit a crime and serve a period of incarceration you’ve paid your debt to society, and in reality it’s not the case,” the Ward 5 native added, lamenting that such former prisoners often don’t have the opportunities to compete fairly.
Democratic Councilman Tommy Wells of Ward 6 first introduced the bill in January. In May, the council’s Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety, changed the language to permit a background check after the first interview, weakening a key part of the bill, which had stressed that employers could review criminal records only after a job offer.
McDuffie’s amendment puts the pointed language back in, proposing a background check only after a conditional offer of employment.
“In a nutshell, I think we have to be smart on crime,” McDuffie said. “For years the war on drugs has ravished communities across the country, and D.C. hasn’t been an exception.”