One small box on an employment application can all but eliminate opportunities for men and women seeking gainful employment after serving out criminal sentences. That box is the space on an employment application that asks if the applicant has been convicted of a crime or incarcerated.
City by city, though, change is coming. The “Ban the Box” initiative has gained traction at least 100 counties and cities and 19 states. Most recently, Ban the Box earned approval in Nashville through a small grassroots effort that transformed into a movement with support from nearly 10,000 citizens and close to 70 faith-based groups and organizations.
The box in question has a history of being used to rule out applicants during the screening process. By broadly removing this box -- from an application for employment, housing, public benefits, insurance, loans, and other services -- candidates would have the opportunity to be evaluated on a more even field. Background checks are still conducted, though at a later stage.
For citizens returning from incarceration, the banning of the box provides greater opportunities for renewed positive engagement with their communities. Holding a job has also been noted as key to reducing rates of recidivism. Building on its current success, the Ban the Box now seeks to remove similar barriers on related life needs such as housing, car loans, and insurance.
At the national level, Ban the Box has attracted the president’s support. The effort is continuing across the nation. For churches that manage prison ministries, Ban the Box offers a new way to support those who have returned to society with the hope of starting a new life.
Learn more about how The United Methodist Church advocates for restorative justice, and watch stories of returned citizens and their mentors. Join us on Twitter or Facebook to add your voice.