Operation ‘Ban the Box’

William T. Robinson, Jr.

William T. Robinson, Jr.

Now is the time for those genuinely concerned with changing the negative plight of many people with felonies to make a concretive effort to right a wrong. We are describing the numerous men and women unable to secure employment because of a felony that may be hanging over them from something they may have done years ago but are still being punished, even though they may have made amends. We are alluding to the fact that most job applications ask if you have been convicted of a crime or been incarcerated. This information is used by many employers to blatantly deny you an interview or serious consideration for a job. In fact, in most cases those applications are literally thrown in the trash or dismissed without the least bit of consideration. Thus, we have a large pool of individuals being denied consideration for a job without being able to detail the circumstances of their criminal history, whether true or false.

I guess everyone for the most part is entitled to a second chance and an opportunity to explain their criminal position, especially when labeled as a felon. Contrary to some people who are perfect and have never made any mistakes, the average person may have made some questionable choices they may regret and learned from to become better individuals. A large group of individuals exists, with a disproportionate number of them being African Americans, who are unable to obtain the opportunity for employment because of employment discrimination based on conviction history.

A ‘ban the box’ policy can help address racial inequities caused by economics among minorities contributing to a higher rate of crime among those unable to obtain employment. It is a known fact that unemployment and poverty can be contributors to high levels of crime. Providing everyone an opportunity for employment is a win for all by reducing recidivism (those returning to prison), providing for safer communities, and reducing the cost to tax payers.

‘Ban the Box’ is seeking a legal recourse to have the proposed charter referendum for Nashville remove questions of criminal history, allowing hiring authorities a chance to learn about the prospective candidates’ experience, skills, and personality as they related to the job to be filled. During the interviewing process the applicant may have the opportunity to explain the circumstances involving his criminal charges, or restitution made to right a wrong.

We are asking for the support of civic organizations, churches, fraternities, sororities, minority businesses, anti-poverty activists, police, civil rights groups, elected officials labor groups, and racial justice activists to rally together to sign petitions to ‘ban the box.’

This is a growing movement that has been successful in many cities, including Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Detroit, Boston, New Haven, Jacksonville, Memphis San Francisco and Kalamazoo. In fact, states such as Massachusetts, Minnesota, Connecticut, New Mexico and Hawaii have passed laws prohibiting the box on applications for state jobs.

If your organization is not talking about banning the box and taking an active role stopping this discriminatory practice, then it is negligent in supporting social justice. Let’s collectively support operation, ‘Ban the Box’ and make Nashville a better place to live for all. Nashville can make it happen.