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TIO: Is the felony box on job applications necessary?


Ban the felony box on job applications
By Jeffrey Bradshaw

Every time someone fills out a job application, they get to witness a miscarriage of justice.

Job applications often include a box to check if you have been convicted of a felony, which is detrimental to the reintroduction of ex-cons into society. We should ban the box.

On the surface, having people previously convicted of a felony disclose their criminal history is a good idea. What is not a good idea is discriminating against people trying to rebuild their life after prison.

Let’s face it, a staggering number of people are behind bars for drug related offenses. These people have committed a crime, of course, but these crimes are often nonviolent. When they are released from prison and try to apply for a job, it is disheartening to be immediately disqualified because of a past mistake.

If people have all the qualifications for a job, they should be considered regardless of having been in possession of pot at some point in their lives. One major problem with the justice system in America is recidivism.

“Recidivism” is when an ex-prisoner gets arrested for doing another crime. Within three years of release, about two-thirds of prisoners get arrested again, not because they are prone to crime, but because, for many, crime is the only way to sustain themselves. The rate of recidivism would decrease drastically if ex-cons were given a chance to earn an honest wage. We could reduce the number of prisoners by letting them apply for jobs in the same way other people do.

The idea of prison is supposed to be about teaching a lesson and moving them away from a life of crime. However, the system is simply not set up that way.

Another benefit of banning the box is the quality of work expected from an ex-con. For someone who has been in prison for years—if not decades—the idea of being free is very appealing. Therefore, if you give an ex-con a job he or she will more than likely work extra hard to try and keep that job.

It is against the law to deny employment to people based on race. The idea of denying ex-cons falls under the same umbrella of discrimination based on a factor nothing to do with task performance.

The idea of banning the box is about giving everyone a fair chance. People who caught for commiting crimes are sent to prison to pay their debt to society. Once they are released, their debt has been paid. By making it harder for ex-cons to find employment, you are extending their sentence to the rest of their lives.

Many states and localities have banned the box and it is time Texas follows suit.

Why removing the felony check box may not be good idea
By Jessica King

Scene: a woman, home alone with three children, is anxiously waiting for the plumber to fix the only toilet in her house. When he finally arrives he appears to be a rather modest looking man—no tattoos, nothing. Unbeknownst to the mother, however, he’s a serial rapist.

Currently going around in the ole U.S. of A. is an outcry from a few select states to ban the criminal check box of a job application. Some call it “structural discrimination,” which means prejudice within the workforce toward those with a criminal history. Often, this is paired with the belief that it will disproportionately affect minorities.

Not everything is meant to target race, first off. If someone has a record and has the intention of applying for work, employers have every right to know the person they are hiring and exposing to other employees as well as customers. If there is a crime that might warrant concern for employers, it doesn’t matter the race—you’re a liability. Tough luck, chump.

Some might say not all jobs should, in fact, request this information—for instance, say, a garbage man. Well, if this man has a record for burglary, then this is an easy way to discreetly case neighborhoods.

Even something as trivial as retail, for obvious reasons, has a need for the felony check box. If applicants have ever been convicted for larceny or theft, particularly from a place of employment, most employers would want to know that, as the worker could be a problem.

In the grand scheme of things, liability is the number one reason most employers would argue on behalf of a criminal history check box—even more so if the business offers services that involve venturing into someone’s home.

By ridding applications of the felony checkbox, we place businesses at a higher chance of being sued for improper conduct and various other, possibly more serious, charges. This bit of legislation is meant to create more jobs for felons and reduce discrimination, but it will more likely create various other avenues to find out someone’s history.

In layman’s terms this legislation will be counterproductive. Yes, it might get a convicted felon hired, but employment will likely be short-lived unless the person in question can live under the radar and keep his mouth shut.

Far too often I’ve run into people who at some point or another let their criminal history slip rather indiscreetly or used it as a badge of honor.

This could also increase stereotypical profiling because employers may have more pressure to guess at face value whether or not someone will be a possible lawsuit in the making.

Sympthay for those who try to make a better life for themselves after making mistakes in the past should, in fact, warrant admiration, but this does not mean others should be put at risk. Many are very aware of the consequences of crimes before committing them. Life is about consequences and learning from your mistakes and those of others.

Whether or not to remove one little check box on an application for employment can be summed up quite simply. The lives of the few do not outweigh the lives of the many.


  1. While it important for employers to know as much as possible about potential employees, eliminating this question may allow people with criminal records to get more interviews. More interviews lead to more jobs. More jobs mean fewer felons going back to criminal behaviors.

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