The Ban the Box campaign took a big leap forward yesterday when President Obama announced new rules mandating federal adherence to Ban the Box. These regulations apply to all federal hiring and will delay asking questions about a job applicant's criminal history until later in the application process.
The President has made criminal justice reform a top priority. In July he spoke to several federal prisoners about this very approach, when he became the first sitting president to visit an American prison.
“If the disclosure of a criminal record happens later in a job application process,” he told them, “you’re more likely to be hired.” Obama described what many studies show – that when many employers see the box checked for an applicant’s criminal record, they weed them out without ever looking at their qualifications.
“If they have a chance to at least meet you,” the president continued, “you’re able to talk to them about your life, what you’ve done, maybe they give you a chance.”
Exactly, because meeting and talking with someone are the first steps in developing a relationship.
Re-entering workers need more than "a job" - they need relationships and positive work history. Clearly, early judgement based solely on one's paper or digital persona, reduces the opportunity for either. This is what Ban the Box aims to correct.
Those background-challenged individuals ready and open to new (positive) relationships will benefit. For others, the demands of a regular job will prove too much regardless of "getting a shot."
In this all-things-digital age, everything is stored away. As economist Tyler Cowen puts it, "everything that can be rated, graded, measured ... will be."
The solution isn't more digits, it's relationships.
For those getting their feet in the door via Ban the Box I say, "fantastic!" However, stay heads-up and realistic. And keep this reminder pinned close to your bedpost: