WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH), today led a group of 25 of their Senate colleagues in urging President Obama to expand job opportunities and reduce recidivism by taking executive action and requiring federal contractors and federal agencies to “ban the box” on job applications. Reforming hiring practices has widespread support from both public and private institutions. Sixteen states and more than 100 cities and counties have already begun to implement fair chance hiring practices that prevent job applicants from being asked about prior convictions until later in the hiring process. Many of the nation’s largest employers, including Walmart; Target; Bed, Bath & Beyond; Koch Industries; and Home Depot, have also opted to “ban the box.”
In addition to Booker and Brown, the letter was signed by U.S. Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Chris Coons (D-DE), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Al Franken (D-MN), Ed Markey (D-MA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Mark Warner (D-VA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Patty Murray (D-WA), Tom Udall (D-NM), Tom Carper (D-DE), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Jack Reed (D-RI), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Bernie Sanders (D-VT), and Brian Schatz (D-HI).
“People who are trying to turn their lives around deserve a second chance to lift themselves up and become a productive member of society. But hiring practices often trap people with records in a life sentence of unemployment,” Booker said. “Sixteen states, more than a hundred cities, and some of the biggest companies in the country have ‘banned the box’ in an effort to give a fair shot to people who want to work and make a better life for themselves. We should follow their example and more widely implement this reform.”
“If we’re going to stop recidivism and ensure that people who have served their time can reenter the workforce, we must promote fair hiring practices,” Brown said. “Americans deserve the chance to earn a living and make a positive contribution to their communities. These reforms would ensure that they have that chance and help to restore hope and opportunity to those who have paid their dues to society.”
“Ban the Box” refers to the section on job application forms that inquires whether the applicant has ever been convicted. For the more than 70 million Americans who have criminal convictions, this barrier to employment so early in the hiring process can serve as categorical disqualification, and limits their ability to provide for themselves and their families. Studies have shown that an inability to find employment is one of the leading causes of reoffending.
Under “ban the box,” employers would retain the ability to inquire about past convictions or conduct background checks regarding a potential employee before making an employment decision.
Booker and Brown continue to advocate for the rights of people with arrests or convictions. The senators are cosponsors of the Democracy Restoration Act of 2015, legislation that would restore voting rights to formerly incarcerated individuals. The bill aims to help Americans who have served their time successfully reenter their communities.