Council Bans the Box
Today the Minneapolis City Council unanimously removed the question requiring disclosure of past criminal records on applications for employment with the City.
The Council on Crime and Justice has been working with Council Members Glidden and Samuels on this for months. (I have been supportive as well, but they took the lead.)
The reason to "ban the box" is that otherwise qualified applicants are discouraged from even applying for work with the City if they know that they will be asked this question. State law prohibits the City from making the answer to that one question the sole basis for refusing to hire someone, but it's understandable that folks are less likely to apply when they see that question asked right on the front of every application.
There are some positions that require background checks. If and when a background check is needed, it will still be performed. All we've done is remove a question that doesn't provide meaningful and useful information to our Human Resources personnel.
If we believe that the thousands of people being released from prison every year can and should be productive members of society, it is important that we do what we can to reduce the obstacles that can come from past convictions. This is a small step in that direction.
We can now go to other employers in Minneapolis and ask that they "ban the box" as well.
It should be noted that the St. Paul City Council has also taken this action - they beat us to it by just a few weeks. I hope that this is the beginning of a larger movement in our metro region, towards rehabilitation and second chances, away from unnecessary and demeaning obstacles to work.