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Monday, February 17, 2014

Virginia's 'Ban-the-Box' Legislation Takes Flight

A bill making it unlawful for employees to question applicants about having a felony on their record has been approved. The 'Ban-the-Box' bill hopes to increase employment opportunities for applicants with prior convictions.

Democratic Senator A. Donald McEachin (Richmond, VA) was one of many in support of the bill.

"This legislation means that a state employee applicant will not be kicked out simply because he has to check the box saying he had a prior conviction.  If qualified for a position and granted an interview, he will then have the opportunity to explain his history and the interviewer can make a reasoned judgment", McEachin wrote in a press release.

Employees can still do background checks on prospective employees, but with the new legislation, applicants won't have to check whether or not they have previous convictions.

Richmond, Virginia joins five other cities in Virginia: New Port News, Norfolk, Petersburg, and Portsmouth,  in support of the legislation.

"... this legislation ... will give offenders an opportunity to receive an interview, explain their prior actions and get a job so they can support their families, added McEachin.

Other politicians, including former Chicago mayor Richard Daley, also support Ban-the-Box.  "Implementing this new policy won't be easy, but it's the right thing to do."

Last year, the U.S. Department of Labor today announced grants totaling $20,518,598 to 18 nonprofit organizations across the country to fund employment-related services for formerly incarcerated adults who are returning to high-poverty, high-crime communities. The grants represent the fifth round of funding under the department’s Reintegration of Ex-Offenders-Adult program, through which more than $98 million has been awarded to date.

Almost 25 U.S. cities have adopted the 'Ban-the-Box' practice.

Earlier this month, speaking at Georgetown University Law Center, Attorney General Eric Holder said, “It is time to fundamentally rethink laws that permanently disenfranchise people who are no longer under federal or state supervision."

Ban-the Box report
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