Ban the Box - Banish the Past

The City of Lancaster Pennsylvania has announced they will join the growing national trend of municipalities, counties and states that have "banned the box" to remove the question of criminal convictions from job applications. Mayor Rick Gray stated this will allow the city to hire the best candidates. The city will continue to look into the applicant's criminal history, but that this step will come later in the process, putting end to the initial elimination of candidates with criminal convictions. Instead, background checks will be performed on finalists for city jobs.

The matter is both practical and moral. The city has a hard time finding candidates with squeaky clean records. The National Ban the Box Campaign states on its website that "Because people of color are disproportionately arrested, convicted, and incarcerated, employers' use of arrest or conviction history has a disparate impact on those communities." Commons sense dictates if a person is convicted of a crime 15 years ago, why should youthful indiscretion prevent an employer from hiring him? Society is proven to be worse off if ex-offenders can't work; they are more likely to offend.

However, moral obligations from employers lie with being able to protect current employees and customers as well. Perhaps a better approach to the dilemma is to consider the nature of the offense, how long ago it occurred and how old the applicant was at the time of the offense. Crimes committed 15 years ago should be looked at differently than crimes committed last month. Was it a felony or misdemeanor conviction? How many convictions does the applicant carry.