Thursday, May 14, 2015

House passes 'ban the box' bill for state agencies

A Houston Chronicle editorial (May 11) rightly praised "ban the box" legislation for state agencies which the Texas House passed today. The article opened:
The "box" asking about a criminal conviction is one most of us mindlessly check on employment applications. But for many otherwise employable adults, it's the biggest barrier to moving forward with productive lives.

Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas, introduced a bill this legislative session that would prevent state agencies from asking about an applicant's criminal background until the interview stage. The proposal is in line with a national trend that has strong bipartisan support.

Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank, recently teamed up with the conservative Koch Brothers to form an advocacy group for criminal justice reform. One of the coalition's goals is to lessen the barriers to employment for ex-offenders. The Koch brothers have banned the box at Koch Industries, the multinational conglomerate.

Policies promoting rehabilitation for ex-offenders require a strong dose of common sense. No one is proposing, for instance, that a former drug dealer be allowed to work for the Texas Pharmacy Board. Or, for that matter, that any state agency be required to hire any ex-offender. A "ban-the-box" law just gives the potential employee an opportunity to present himself to a potential employer and for the potential employer to see the whole person. When that box is checked, applicants often are immediately rejected for a prior offense that may have no bearing on the job or is so old that it's not relevant.
Now, HB 548 on to the Senate. This would be a really good and important change, I hope it makes it through..


RE2013 said...

In my opinion. People deserve a chance to show what they are worth and work a stable job to provide for their families. The fact that some peoples crimes happened 10-20 years ago and they still have to live with it despite the fact that the have done their time.Recieved an education. and started a life. Shouldnt be a deterrent for moving forward and explaining their situation.

Anonymous said...

I agree with all that has been said/posted. IMO we should also take this approach with Sex Offenders and the SO Registry. The vast majority of these individuals are NOT predators and their crimes committed many years ago. But they have done their time and are still required to register and face many barriers to living full productive lives. Empirical data shows that the recidivism rate among SO is less than that of murderers. The data shows that the registers do little to protect children.

As RE2013 says "People deserve a chance to show what they are worth and work a stable job to provide for their families."

Recent examples in the news of SO paying for crimes of long ago:

A person who had been living honestly and was gainfully employed in Austin is sought out by an unscrupulous reporter and "interviewed" about his job installing security systems in people's home. He lost his job

A 28 year old person [he has been a lobbyist at this session of the lege] convicted at age 12 of inappropriately touching his sister [who has forgiven him] now facing a potential 25 year sentence. It has been alleged by the Dallas DA that he failed to correctly register a housing move with the Dallas authorities. He was arrested while attempting to register.

The Old Skool Preacher said...

The net effect of such a law would be to "keep hope alive" to continue the job search.

The offender class has the hightest rate of joblessness in our society.

DEWEY said...

YES !!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you to all legislators who have worked to pass this bill. Hopefully the Senate will quickly pass and make this bill law. I believe the Koch brothers are right about the over criminalization of America and this will give some a chance to make a better life for themselves and their families.

As I have educated myself the last two years on the problems facing some good men who have been labeled for life after committing 'crimes' of various types, I have been horrified at the continuing punishment they receive. Those without sin should cast the first stone.

Again, thank you to the legislators in the House who worked and got this done! The future looks a little brighter for some.

From a Grandmother of a teen convicted as a felon for life for having consensual sex with another teen

Anonymous said...

Of course bills like this are now necessary. With the U.S. locking up more of its citizens than any other country in the world, the size of the workforce with a criminal background is bound to increase. Why not stop putting people into the system to begin with. Abusive laws, especially for drug charges and in particular marijuana possession, add thousands to the new criminal class every year.

Anonymous said...

All the comments are so appropriate. ..our system does very little to "rehabilitate" our "offenders" no matter their charge..we need reforms to get them back into society as contributing, productive cohorts they once were. It ruins many people's lives for things similar to our mistakes or omissions we do too. It is NOT a justice system.

Joorie Doodie said...

I'm a conservative, law-and-order kind of person. But I'd like to see a law similar to credit laws where certain misdemeanors e.g. "theft by check" and marijuana possession disappear after, say, 10 years, as long as there have been no subsequent criminal convictions. Maybe arrests records for non-violent misdemeanor offenses should be sealed (except for law enforcement). Because of our lawsuit-paranoid society, many employers reject even those with only arrest records (without convictions) outright. Why should otherwise hard-working, law abiding persons serve life sentences for petty mistakes they made in the distant past?

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of all the people at the Texas Youth Commission back in 2007 who got fired because for convictions revealed on their applications. All of the sex pervs except one got off but people who had nothing to do with the sexual abuse lost their jobs. Back in 2007 all the political hacks were patting themselves on the back for destroying the lives of innocent people while the the bad guys walked away clean except for one low level guy. Jay Kimbrough came in and caused such a storm everybody was watching Perry's Fixer Man. The state legislators dumped the responsibility for the youth corrections system on the county commissioners.


Anonymous said...

Easy fix would be time based full pardons. No lawyers, pay offs, political connections, or judges to screw up the process. This simple and unbiased system will never be put in place because most of our elected officials are lawyers and they could not make money off of people!

FTM stand for Follow The Money! It is all about making money off of crime for the state and corporations. It has never been about Rehabilitation or making society better. Look who gets the fine money! The State gets the Fine Money not the Victim. Prison for profit is a big money maker that many politicians own stock in. Mandatory Sentencing Laws are pushed by Prison for Profit Lobbyist. Prison for Profit companies want the offender to re-offend because is good for their bottom line. It is all about the money boys and girls and nothing else.

Your old friend,

Anonymous said...

I bet you part of the motovation of Harris County prosecutors is to tag people with felonies so as to destroy them economically. These folks are evil!!!!

Anonymous said...

This is a great start. So much more work to get done. Thanks to all those who fight the good fight for us who are not considered part of society. Your support is all we have for sane practices and hope.

Anonymous said...

This is a ridiculous bill and it is a complete waste of tax payer money to even debate it. The fact is that regardless if the box was eliminated from an application for employment or not, human resource people today have a prodigious amount of resources to check out perspective candidates for open positions. Any computer literate person who has the ability to use search engines, such as Google, can find out if a job applicant has a criminal record. Additionally, 99% of all insurance carriers who provide insurance to companies require that all new hires submit to a background check before they go to work. The only thing that box is really used for these days is an excuse to fire someone should they omit the truth, if the company is needing an excuse when they make the decision to terminate someone's employment. The only way the solution to the issue of people with criminal records facing a nightmare in finding employment will ever gain any ground, is when laws are enacted to make criminal records not part of public information. I am sure we all know that will never happen.

Unknown said...

The real issue involved with this legislation is to address the nightmare people with criminal records face when trying to find employment. A good way to address this issue would be for the courts upon a felony conviction, to make the offender go to work for a city, county, state or federal job. This would be no different than when this country adopted a welfare to work initiative to take free loaders off of welfare and put them to work in government jobs. Texas would really hate this idea, simply because recidivism rates would drop by 50% or more overnight.

MarcioWilges said...

I try my best not to discriminate. I have movers who have shady backgrounds but I try my best to trust them and give them a chance. Sometimes, that's all they need to get back on their feet. Thou shalt not judge and all that you know?