Imagine a world where someone’s employment prospects were determined by checking a box that revealed their credit score. If you or someone you care about are one of the millions of American’s with poor credit this prospect should terrify you. Eliminating someone simply because of a poor credit score would be bad policy and create financial barriers for people who could benefit from financial resources the most. If you are working to regain your credit or pay your debts the one thing you need is a stable job.
However, for roughly 70 million Americans just replace the credit score box with “have you ever been convicted of a crime?” and this is what they face. Research tells us that lack of employment is one of the biggest predictors of justice system involvement and successful return back into the community.
Dennis* is one of the 70 million Americans facing the “box” challenge. He applied for a job in Baltimore, filled out the job application and checked the box about having a criminal record. The next thing he knew, the employer told him that he wouldn’t hire a felon. He wasn’t interested in hearing about Dennis’s qualifications or the strides he has made since he was convicted of a crime. As Dennis said,
“It was a waste of time for me because he saw it on my application and I put in effort for no reason. I think it would be better [to not have to check a box] because as far as when your interviewing – you can talk one-on-one about your last job you had and it can help.”
To prevent someone like Dennis, who is ready, willing and able to work, from even having a chance at a job is poor public policy and doesn’t make our communities safer.
Here at JPI we are working in Maryland, Virginia and nationally to reduce justice system involvement and advocate for a smaller, more cost effective and fair justice system.
In 2014, JPI worked with the Greater Baltimore Grassroots Criminal Justice Network to lead the charge in educating the Baltimore City Council on the importance of passing “ban the box” legislation. The common sense legislation requires that employers remove questions related to a past conviction from a job application. In April 2014, the legislation passed, knocking down a significant barrier to employment prospects for Baltimore residents. This change means that people with criminal records won’t be disqualified for simply checking a box on an application, regardless of whether they are qualified for a job. The success in Baltimore City has led to other localities in Maryland looking to replicate this important legislation and give more Maryland residents the chance for success.
We all need to work together to promote practical policies and programs that help lift people up rather than subject them to the lifetime consequences associated with justice system involvement.
I’m asking for your help today in supporting this critical work. Just $15 each month will enable the Justice Policy Institute to continue our work to ensure that all people get a fair chance at employment, and to create a fairer and more effective justice system that will make us all safer in the long run.
Thank you for your support.
Marc Schindler, Executive Director
We helped attack the barriers to employment in Maryland by partnering with the Baltimore Grassroots Criminal Justice Network to “Ban the Box” on employment applications, giving people with criminal records a chance to gain employment and stay on the right track.
Billion Dollar Divide: Virginia’s Sentencing, Corrections and Criminal Justice Challenge
We released a report detailing the “racial disparities, skewed fiscal priorities, and missed opportunities” in Virginia’s criminal justice system, which now occupies $1 billion of the commonwealth’s budget.
Coalition-Building in Virginia
We worked to support a growing coalition of community organizations and faith leaders in Virginia, who are working to reform the justice system.
News Analysis & Rapid Response
We responded quickly and thoroughly to critical events in the justice field, including the developments in Ferguson, Missouri, the release of the president’s budget, the escape of several teens from one of Tennessee’s juvenile detention facilities, D.C.’s consideration of juvenile justice reform, and more.
We continued to offer in-depth commentary on the justice field through our Just Policy Blog, writing on the possibility of bipartisan sentencing reform, the scourge of felony disenfranchisement, the pitfalls of private prisons, and more.
We celebrated the first anniversary of the release of Incarceration Generation, launching a brand new podcast featuring the book’s authors and making many of the its chapters available for free online.
We consolidated much of our research on Maryland’s justice system to produce several factsheets and share-able images in our Maryland Month campaign.
We engaged in a rigorous, organization-wide strategic planning process to clarify our goals and expectations for the next three years.
* In order to protect the privacy of the individual, the name has been changed for the purposes of this solicitation.