After being convicted of a crime it can be difficult to find your footing again. There are employers that may choose not to hire someone with a criminal record and housing options that can be closed to those with convictions. In some circumstances, having options limited can cause someone to choose to make the unfortunate choice to commit another crime. In an effort to reduce recidivism, Governor Doug Ducey is considering a “ban the box” policy in Arizona.
Policies like this give those who have been convicted of a crime a second chance. According to the Arizona Capitol Times, “[t]he “ban the box” movement, also referred to as fair chance hiring, started more than a decade ago by advocating for eliminating questions about criminal records until later in the hiring process as a way to help ex-offenders get jobs.” Ideally, a former offender would have a conditional job offer in hand before a background check would be conducted, stated Beth Avery of the National Employment Law Project. In addition, she stated that “[t]he ideal hiring policy looks at whether the conviction relates to the job, the nature of the offense, and how much time has passed.”
Tucson has had ‘ban the box' policies in place for public sector jobs for two years. A spokeswoman for the city stated that “the policy has worked well for Tucson and hasn't hindered employment in any way.” The Arizona Capitol Times states that “Tucson conducts backgrounds checks only once a candidate is a finalist for a position.” Phoenix and Tempe have also put into place a fair chance hiring policy. The policy that Ducey is looking at implementing would also pertain just to public sector employees. However, the hope is that private companies would later follow the model used by the government. In addition, the federal government put this type of policy into effect in 2016.
The News Tribune reports that, in Washington, lawmakers are considering a 'ban the box' bill. The law "would prohibit employers from asking about criminal history until the applicant is proven ‘otherwise qualified,' meaning they meet the basic criteria of the job.” In addition, employers would be prohibited “from advertising jobs in a way that excludes people with criminal histories.” Also, “[a]pplicants could not be rejected for failing to disclose criminal information.” It is important to note that the bill would have exceptions for certain types of professions such as law enforcement. As in Arizona, some places in Washington have already adopted a ‘ban the box' policy, like Tacoma.
Though they do help remove an obstacle for some offenders, fair chance hiring policies are not without flaws. Two studies cited by the Capitol Times discussed how 'ban the box' policies may negatively impact minority applicants. Similarly, the National Bureau of Economic Research "found that employers are more likely to assume young, low-skilled black and Hispanic men had a criminal record unless proven otherwise." According to the News Tribune, supporters of the Washington 'ban the box' policy "acknowledge the legislation wouldn't stop people from making assumptions based on race, just as they do now." Likewise, Beth Avery states that "culprit" is racial discrimination, not the 'ban the box' policy.
Numerous other states currently have ‘ban the box' policies. According to the Arizona Capitol Times, “more than half of the states have some form of policy that delays the process of asking about criminal records.” Depending on the state, the policy may apply to just government jobs or it may also apply to private sector employers.