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"Banning the Box": New CT Law to Stop Discrimination Against Ex-Prisoners Based Solely on their Criminal Record

Last week, the Connecticut Senate unanimously voted to enact HB 5207, which prevents discrimination against ex-prisoners based solely on their criminal record. In March, the Connecticut House of Representatives also voted unanimously in favor of the bill. The new law will prohibit state government employers from inquiring into a job applicant’s criminal record until the applicant has been deemed qualified for the position. It will provide similar standards for those seeking state licenses and certifications for trades or vocations.

The so-called “Ban the Box” law is so named because it eliminates from state job application forms the question requiring job-seekers to put a check-mark in the box if they have ever been convicted of a crime. Nationally, about two-thirds of people released from prison are convicted and sent back to jail (“recidivating”) within three years. Studies show that stable employment soon after leaving prison can substantially reduce recidivism, and with it state and federal costs for incarceration, prosecution, and law enforcement. A 2004 Loyola University study of recidivism in Illinois found that, while the state’s overall recidivism rate was 54%, that rate declined substantially with employment - for ex-prisoners who found jobs for at least 30 days, only 24% went back to prison; for those who maintained employment for twelve consecutive months, the rate was only 8%.

The National Employment Law Project has a recent report highlighting new initiatives to reduce barriers to employment by ex-prisoners. The “Ban the Box” movement began in 2003 as a grassroots effort to improve reintegration of ex-prisoners and reduce recidivism, and has been gaining steam ever since. New Mexico (§ 28-2-3) enacted similar legislation earlier this year, as did Minnesota in 2009, with other “Ban the Box” bills introduced in California, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, and Rhode Island this year. To date, twenty cities and counties and seven states (including Connecticut) have passed laws prohibiting discrimination based solely on criminal record. Most laws apply only to public employers, although some apply to state/municipal contractors (e.g., Indianapolis and Philadelphia) and/or private sector employers (Hawaii and Kansas).

Resources:
National Employment Law Project - New State Initiatives Adopt Model Hiring Policies Reducing Barriers to Employment of People with Criminal Records
Major U.S. Cities and Counties Adopt Hiring Policies to Remove Unfair Barriers to Employment of People with Criminal Records
All of Us or None
All of Us or None YouTube Video
Safer Foundation- Redemption in the Presence of Widespread Criminal Background Checks
Loyola University, Jodina Hicks inCorrections Today, October 2004. - Employment Upon Re-entry: Prison-Based Preparedness Leads to Community-Based Success
The Sentencing Project - Relief from the Collateral Consequences of a Criminal Conviction: A State-by-State Resource Guide
RI Future.org - "Ban The Box" Bill Introduced in RI
Tacoma Examiner - Ban the Box - Ex-Convict Job Seekers No Longer Required to Disclose Criminal Past
ABC News - “Nebraska May 'Ban the Box' on Employment Applications”