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“Ban the Box” Legislation and Employment for Criminal Defendants

One of the main factors which help to keep ex-felons from returning to prison is their ability to find employment. Unemployment is one of the most deciding factors when reflecting the recidivism rate for ex-convicted felons. The answer seems obvious: if you’re an ex-felon, go out, get a job, and be a productive member of society and then you won’t return to the slammer. But, what goes undiscussed is the effect that a criminal record has on employment options and opportunities.

The Number of Americans with Criminal Records

According to an article published by the Atlantic, almost 70 million Americans have criminal records. A criminal record does not necessarily mean that the person was convicted for a crime, but was arrested for a crime that he or she may not have been charged with. This could place an individual who was arrested but was never convicted on the same level, in the eyes of some employers, as someone who has been convicted and spent time in prison for a violent crime.

38,000 Collateral Consequences of Having a Criminal Record

The American Bar Association has estimated that as a consequence of having a criminal record, there are some 38,000 collateral byproducts. This can leave many who have only been arrested but not convicted or who served a probationary sentence to be completely cut out from working in education, receiving food stamps, or even public housing refusing access to these individuals. Ultimately a criminal record has the same effect of stigmatizing and boxing out members of society from employment opportunities and pushes them further into desperate measures, which could send them (back) to prison.

The Effect of Boxing Out in Predominately Black and Hispanic Communities

The effects of boxing out those with criminal records from employment has a significant and disparate impact on certain communities, especially in those that are predominantly black and Hispanic. An article published by the Nation (and citing a statistic published by the Department of Justice) suggested that a third of black men will at one point in their life spend time in prison, while a fifth of Hispanic men will go to prison.

The effect of unemployment is astounding, not only on the individuals trying to straighten out their lives but also on the community, which suffers from a lack of money and spending within the community. Many states and cities are passing legislation to combat the effects of unemployment in their community through a campaign known as “Ban the Box”, referring to the box that must be checked by applicants when asking about past felonies or criminal records.

The “Ban the Box” Campaign

The campaign started going after state, city, and county jobs, but now has started to trickle around the nation to private companies. Currently Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey and Rhode Island have legislation in place that expanded their legislation to private employers. Other cities have moved in that direction. Other employers, like Wal-Mart and Target, also have put into effect “ban the box” criteria to help employ those with criminal records. As of May 26, 2015, 17 states have enacted “ban the box” legislation; Florida, however, has not.

“Ban the Box” in Florida

About 70 of Florida’s cities have introduced their own local “ban the box” legislation and are in consideration throughout the state. St. Petersburg, along with Tampa, was the most recent of Florida’s cities to begin discussions about “ban the box” legislation. One thing to keep in mind is that it does not completely do away with the background checks and the question in its entirety. Instead, it puts that request later in the application process, thus giving an applicant a fair chance to be considered, rather than automatically eliminated. It also only affects local city jobs, and not private employers.

Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Fort Lauderdale

It is important to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney like Kevin J. Kulik if you or a loved one has been arrested for a criminal act. Having an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side could help get your criminal record expunged so that you are not limited in employment options. Contact Kevin J. Kulik today for a free and confidential consultation in the Fort Lauderdale area.

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