Monday, June 22, 2015

BROKEN JUSTICE - Ex-Cons and Jobs

"Are ex-cons being unfairly barred from jobs?  ‘Ban the Box’ proponents say yes" PBS NewsHour 6/17/2015


SUMMARY:  For many ex-felons, finding employment can be hard, even well after they have served their debt to society.  As part of our series “Broken Justice,” William Brangham looks at “Ban the Box,” a movement that aims to make it easier for those with a criminal background to find employment.  Former inmate Daryl Atkinson and Beth Milito of the National Federation of Small Business debate the movement.

JUDY WOODRUFF (NewsHour):  Now we turn to our occasional series on imprisonment and criminal justice in America.

Some Republicans and Democrats are uniting over reform ideas.

Tonight, in our "Broken Justice" series, William Brangham looks at a high-profile idea that centers around felons and their lives after prison.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM (NewsHour):  The nation’s biggest city New York, just became the latest in a national movement to rewrite the hiring process and give convicted felons a better chance at landing a job.

Supporters gathered a few days ago as the New York City Council voted overwhelmingly to block employers from asking job applicants if they have a criminal history.  The law is known as ban the box.  It would do away with the question or box on job applications asking if a worker has served time in prison or had a record.  The idea is spreading.

So far, 17 states across the country and more than 100 cities and counties have passed similar ban the box laws.

We get two different perspectives.

Daryl Atkinson is senior staff attorney at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice.  And Elizabeth Milito is senior executive counsel for the National Federation of Independent Business.

Daryl Atkinson, I know this is not just a matter of public policy for you.  This is very personal in your own particular story.  Can you tell us a little bit about that?

DARYL ATKINSON, Senior Staff Attorney, Southern Coalition for Social Justice:  Sure, William.

In 1996, I was convicted of a first-time nonviolent drug crime.  I spent 40 months in prison in the Alabama Department of Corrections.  I went into prison with a high school diploma.  I came out with a high school diploma.  Fortunately enough for me, I had a loving family that could provide me food, clothing and shelter.

And I have been able to achieve a certain degree of success.  I have gotten my education.  I’m licensed to practice law in Minnesota and North Carolina.  I was honored at the White House as a Champion of Change in removing barriers for people with records.

But I don’t tell that story to highlight any exceptionable attributes about me.  I believe that millions of people who cycle in and out of our criminal justice system can be successful as well if they have the necessary support.

So, we ban the box in both Durham City and Durham County in 2011 and in 2012.  And we have seen the percentage of people hired who have criminal records go up every year without any increases in workplace theft or crime.  None of these folks have been subsequently terminated because they committed a subsequent offense.

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