Monday, October 27, 2014

Levin: Helping ex-offenders find employment makes us safer

Marc Levin of the Texas Public Policy Foundation was quoted this week in the New York Times (Oct. 24) supporting the idea of "ban the box" legislation making it easier for ex-offenders to apply for certain public sector jobs. Here's a notable excerpt:
“There’s been a shift in people away from wanting to get even,” said Marc A. Levin, the policy director for Right on Crime, a conservative anti-crime group in Texas. “People are focused now on getting results. It really is a great benefit to public safety if ex-offenders are able to get jobs, find places to live and get occupational licenses — whether it’s from the perspective of the ex-offender or those of us who are going to live next to them.”

With an estimated one in three American adults having been arrested at some point in their lives, and 16 million people — about 7.5 percent of the adult population — who are felons or former felons, the question of how to reintegrate the 700,000 people who are released from prison each year has become increasingly urgent.

During the past several months, states and cities as varied as Illinois; Nebraska; New Jersey; Indianapolis; Louisville, Ky.; and New Orleans and have adopted so-called Ban the Box laws. In total, some 70 cities and 13 states have passed such laws — most in the past four years.

The laws generally prohibit employers from asking applicants about criminal records as an initial step in the hiring process and from running criminal background checks until job seekers are considered serious candidates for an opening.
Studies have found that ex-offenders, particularly African-Americans, are far less likely to be called back for job interviews if they check the criminal history box on applications, even though research has shown that those possessing a criminal record are no more apt to commit a crime in the workplace than colleagues who have never been convicted.

19 comments:

John David Galt said...

I would not want a blanket "ban the box" law, because some occupations really do need trustworthy people. For instance, a convicted thief should not be automatically entitled to have that fact ignored if he wants to become a banker, accountant, or locksmith. Likewise a convicted drunk driver (regardless of whether he's an alcoholic) should not get to become a truck driver.

In all these cases, I accept that some people convicted of the crime are reformed, and it may be OK to grant them a second chance. But this needs to be up to the hiring manager -- not forced on him, either by ADA or a "ban the box" law.

Kenneth said...

John, just because someone has a conviction, did not make them untrustworthy. The point of ban the box laws is to stop discrimination at the time of application. No one is saying it will force banks to hire thieves. Far too many qualified people are shut out of jobs because of stupid mistakes in their past. Should a 40 year old be denied a occupational license for something stupid he did when he was 19?

Anonymous said...

I am 100% in support of banning the box. DWIs prevent me from hiring very qualified individuals. Run checks on sex offenders who are truly sex offenders and other like felons but leave the misdemeanors out of any search that has nothing to do with the occupation.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

JDG, Kenneth is exactly right. You're misrepresenting the "ban the box" proposal pretty severely.

Mary Sue said...

Anon- "Run checks on sex offenders who are truly sex offenders and other like felons"

EVERYONE, regardless of their criminal history needs a job, period! Do you think communities are safer if people with a ‘sex offense’ are unemployed and homeless? Ban the Box ONLY omit’s the criminal history question on the original application and allows the applicant at least a chance for a face to face interview. Businesses will still be able to conduct background checks before hiring the person.
There are 85,000 people listed on the Texas Sex Offender Registry. If you think that all of them have committed dangerous, heinous crimes, you are sadly mistaken. Maybe you’ll understand the issue once your family member is added to the over-blown list.
Your comment is ridiculous and it is because of people like you that entire families suffer under the label of ‘sex offender’.

Josh Zuniga said...

First and foremost everyone deserves a second chance, felons and people in life who make stupid mistakes and didn't get caught - but first and foremost - to all of you - there are innocent people in prison and or convicted felons that simply could not get evidence to court or anyone to help them - I know because we are one of those families suffering from injustice in this country. However in meeting many folks in prisons - there are some really great people who deserve jobs and chances in life - all of them - yes you have people who made mistakes, that does not make them untrustworthy - if they have committed the same crime multiple times - perhaps they need a new profession - and certainly their history reflects that - but the majority of the offenders sex offenders and others are first time offenses because of either legal issues or mistakes - but they deserve their lives back and those of their family - with 1 in 4 Americans in prison - it will be your family next - so don't be so quick to judge as it is coming for you.

Anonymous said...

First and foremost everyone deserves a second chance, felons and people in life who make stupid mistakes and didn't get caught - but first and foremost - to all of you - there are innocent people in prison and or convicted felons that simply could not get evidence to court or anyone to help them - I know because we are one of those families suffering from injustice in this country. However in meeting many folks in prisons - there are some really great people who deserve jobs and chances in life - all of them - yes you have people who made mistakes, that does not make them untrustworthy - if they have committed the same crime multiple times - perhaps they need a new profession - and certainly their history reflects that - but the majority of the offenders sex offenders and others are first time offenses because of either legal issues or mistakes - but they deserve their lives back and those of their family - with 1 in 4 Americans in prison - it will be your family next - so don't be so quick to judge as it is coming for you.

Anonymous said...

As I sat in my very first class in seminary many years ago I can still hear the echo of my professor. If you think you are incapable of committing a crime you are deceiving yourself.
A thief as John states: A family has become homeless due to all the economy issues and the family is hungry, the baby needs formula, so the husband goes in to a store and steals some food. He gets caught. He is now a felon, a thief.
The moment that we as a society remove second chances from any one person then we as a society have given up hope on that person. When an adolescent, young adult, or any person commits suicide, they have lost hope. If we as a society work together to help the lost person then we are becoming part of the solution instead of being a closed minded part of the problem.
A high school teacher has a group of students both male and female. He is walking through the crowd and accidently brushed up against a girl. He is convicted and found to be a RSO. There are accidents and the moment we stop believing in them we as society have become self righteous morons.

caveman7570 said...

To anonymous, As a decision maker in my company for hiring employees, I would rather give someone with a sex offence a chance before I would hire someone with a DUI. People with DUI's think their crime is a victimless one when in fact they endanger many by making a dumb decision to drive while drunk. I've known many on DUI probation and they are more manipulative than sex offenders. I've seen them out in bars drinking, buying other cars to skirt the breathalyzer machine attached to their own vehicles, drink lots of water before a piss test to skewer the results. Plus many of them think they don't have a problem at all. I don't want to deal with someone who drinks all night and comes into work hung over and non productive. If you want to hire drunks at your company than so be it, just don't complain when they call in sick because they don't feel well knowing they were out partying the night before.

Anonymous said...

Wow did you just completely ignore the last statement on this article? Please open up your mind and your reading comprehension skills. It says 'RESEARCH has shown that those possessing a criminalrecord are no more apt to commit a crime in the workplace than colleagues who have never been convicted" What you're saying is "Who cares about reasonable policy based on research. I want unreasonable policy based on ignorance and hate"

wisdom of Solomon said...

I am reminded of a terse comment made many years ago by a now retired TX state legislator who attempted to get this same type of legislation passed, he said, "...you (employers)are going to either give them (ex-offenders) a job at your business in the day or, see them (ex-offenders) rob your business at night..." How very true this statment is. Everyone should have a shot at employment; at earning an honest living--especially if you have a family. But when you deny people at least an opportunity to do so, you place them in a desperate position. This is not good for anyone; especially for a night clerk at some convenience store--easy prey for a man desperate to put food on his family's table, pay his electric, water, gas bills or give his wife money for household necessities. From experience, ex-cons are no more likely to commit workplace crime than a non-ex-con. Think Ken Lay, Jeff Skilling of Enron or Bernie Madoff just to name a few. All very accomplished men who were already mutli-millionaires: but look at what they did to their companies. So, as Mr. Levin posits, giving an ex-con at least an opportunity at gainful employment will make society safer. Having them desperate for money damn sure puts us all at peril.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely, brushing up against someone's breast over their clothes in some states like Arizona is called "Sexual Abuse" It's a felony and carries a mandatory prison term of 1 to 3 years plus lifetime sex offender registration. Arizona Revised Statutes.

Stephen Karnes said...

I think that the box should be removed from the employment application. However, due to the nature of certain employment, such as working with cash, working with children etc. There are still standards to observe. The sex offender registry as it is today, is dangerous. There are so many people on it undeservedly that it is now running the risk of becoming ineffective because people can say they were convicted on a misunderstanding and almost anyone will believe them because the registry is a joke. I am not nor do I ever hope to be on this registry just do you know, but, I have done case management for several people who were and did not deserve to be.

A Person having a felony conviction should only be considered for employment where it is a direct issue. DWI offenders should not be professional drivers. Sex offenders should not work in day care. But a guy who got caught with some drugs at 18 or 20 should not be struggling for employment at 35 or 40 years of age. Times are hard enough, and there are few enough jobs to go around. Putting people on a don't hire list is simply cruel and unusual punishment.I do believe if you keep pushing people down, one day they will reach their frustration level and snap, then society say well he or she was a criminal anyway and writes them off. Who the hell have we become??

Debby Kratky said...

I've run reentry programs for years now and I can state beyond a doubt, that having a job that plays to the strengths of the job seeker makes a profound difference. In our most recent demonstration grant from the Department of Labor, we were able to prove this hypothesis. We enrolled 503 participants recently released from TDCJ. We reviewed recidivism rates at their one year anniversary. Our goal was 22% at that anniversary date. After our 3rd year, the program recidivism stands at 5%. I found this absolutely amazing. The common denominator for this group was work. But programs like this cost money. As it stands, there is little to no money coming to the community for reentry employment projects like ours and federal dollars are not available for formula funding. It's frustrating to know that something works and to also know that there just aren't dollars to provide it.

Anonymous said...

I agree that they should Ban the Box. It should be based on job performance and capability. I have recently learned How unjust the sex offender registry sentence is. The sex offender sentence seems to be passed out like candy, Thousands of these people should not be on the registry, the USA has gone off the deep end. I have recently learned that thousands of Registered sex offenders are simply teens who were only 18 or 19 yrs old dating someone under 18, and they where put in jail, and have to register as a sex offender for life, This is NOT justice. It is all only about making money, money for the system. Everyone needs to know about this. I've seen videos of a 19 yr old watching porn in his home, taken in by law enforcement and put in jail and now having to register as a sex offender. They should punish the people who are posting the illegal video's not the teens who are watching them. The Registered Sex Offender Sentence should only be for true sex offenders, not those who fall under the Romeo & Juliet law. But even that should not be against the law, Millions of teens around the world know of people dating and in relationships 17 with a 19 yr old. or 16 with an 19yr old. But to sentence these kids for life as a registered sex offender is a crime in itself. God Help America.

Anonymous said...

That's because they would rather channel th money to the prisons. There's no money to be made in prevention, the money is in the punishment after the crime is committed. (Counselors, prisons, prison providers, corrections officers jobs created, etc, etc)

George said...

Here's my take on all of this. To anyone who thinks that they are immune to the ramifications of the lock'em up, monitor'em and control'em lobbyist's efforts that have resulted in so many of the draconian laws that are in place today -- you are sadly mistaken. You are paying for all of this through your teeth.

Private prisons and corporations who supply the criminal justice system with the ankle bracelets, gps tracking devices etc. are raking in millions of our tax dollars. Their lobbyists carefully word and hand these tough on crime bills to their hand selected, and campaign funded, Representatives and Senators. That's how things are done here in Texas, and probably anywhere else for that matter.

These corporations need the general public to view felons as threats so that more laws can be passed in order to have a wider base of citizens to draw from, a commodity or sorts. They make money from peoples mistakes and in my opinion that needs to stop. Punish people for the crimes they commit, then help them when they return to live among us.

One other thing, what is a true sex offender anyway? There are sexually deviant thoughts inside all of us (just ask some of these sex offender treatment providers that are flourishing as a result of the laws aimed at people convicted of sex offenses). Most don't act out on them but they are there nonetheless, if you deny this then you are a bald faced liar.

The fact is that once a person is charged and convicted of a sex offense, they are among the lowest of recidivists (roughly 3% commit new sex offenses). This is not just for the Romeo and Juliet type of offenses, this is for all sex offenses, even offenses against children. There are already risk assessment tools in place that can help determine who are the true sex offenders who are among these three percenters. Use these tools and stop the injustice of applying these inane laws onto people who are truly remorseful and are trying to get their lives back together.

Many of these "true" sex offenders have family, including children, and the collateral damage inflicted their family members take a heavy toll.

Seek the truth about anything and you most likely will come away with a different view of things. Ignore the truth and suffer the consequences.

Anonymous said...

I think a very simple solution to the Texas Sex Offender Registry is this, if you're not a "convicted" sex offender then you should not have to register as a sex offender. I don't know the exact numbers but I saw on the news a couple of years back that almost 30%-40% of the people on the registry had the charges dismissed, no conviction and the state mandated that they had to register. I was shocked when I heard this! Maybe I'm old fashioned but I don't think it's right for the courts to dismiss charges against a person then turn around and force that person to register for the offense that the courts dismissed. It seems to me that the state is misleading people into believing that everyone on the registry is a convicted sex offender! I noticed that the registry doesn't say anything about if and when charges were dismissed. I think it's called "deferred adjudication". Maybe Grits can tell us if he knows the percentage of people on the registry that are not convicted? Taking those "non-convicted" off the registry would save the state a lot of money and resources and clear up a lot of confusion about whether they are convicted sex offenders.

George said...

@Anonymous 5:41,
Yes, you are old fashioned and that is a great deal of the problem with all of this. The vast majority of the American citizens whose names and addresses are on the registry should not be there regardless of what nature the offense is.

The law enforcement officials are the only ones who should have access to this sort of information. As I stated preciously, 97%, or more, of the citizens on the registry will never commit another sex offense. Tons of empirical evidence backs this up. Why should you, or any other citizen, have access to this sort of information? You don't have access to this info on murderer's or people who physically/emotionally abuse children. Why does the word sex have such significance? Are sex offenses really any worse than murdering someone or offenses where a parent or caregiver basically tortures a child or elderly person?

Yes, you hit the nail right on the head when you said that you were old fashioned. Old fashioned in the sense that you will allow the same old bull crap to continue, allow the self-serving politicians and money-hungry media to woo and sway you with there take on the matter instead of looking into the matter yourself and seek the real truth.