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"Ban the Box" Movement Gathers Steam

June 16, 2010 | Posted In Recent News - Criminal Law

More states are working to enact legislation that would prevent discrimination against ex-prisoners. Last month, Connecticut enacted its own version of the “ban the box” legislation. The law includes provisions that would prevent job applicants from having to check or uncheck a box on the application, asking if they have ever been convicted of a crime. Connecticut's new law will ban state government employers from probing an applicant’s criminal background, until he has been deemed qualified for the job.

The Ban the Box movement began in response to sky-high recidivism figures across the country. Studies indicate that approximately 2/3rd of people who are released from prison, return within three years. These high recidivism rates have been a major concern to New Jersey criminal defense lawyers.

There is also enough evidence to indicate that prisoners who have a stable job, are less likely to return to prison. Stable employment can help bring down recidivism rates. A person is less likely to be involved in any kind of criminal activity if he has a 9-to-5 job, keeping him busy and productive.

Several states have enacted their own legislation, protecting ex-prisoners from discrimination when they seek gainful employment. New Mexico and Minnesota recently did so, and Maryland, Nebraska, California, Rhode Island and New Jersey have pending legislation in the works.

In 2010, a bill A.B. 1757 was introduced in the New Jersey assembly. The bill would prohibit state, county and local agencies from requiring job applicants to reveal whether they have ever been convicted of crimes. The bill would also prohibit employers from seeking to deny employment to a person, based on a previous criminal conviction unless the crime that was committed had a direct relationship with the position that the person was applying for.

The bill also requires employers to give importance to certificates of rehabilitation, whenever such certificates are granted. Public and private employers are not allowed to inquire about an applicant’s arrest history. Employers are not allowed to ask whether an applicant has been convicted of a sealable non-criminal offense, and are also not allowed to take into consideration arrests that did not end with the person's conviction.

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