Countless news cycles peddle examples of bad behavior from celebrities. Whether it is Tom Brady deflating balls or Hillary Clinton mismanaging her emails, inevitably, what follows is a tearful apology. An apology carefully crafted to evoke sympathy for the offender through a shroud of ignorance, thus granting them absolution from their indiscretions.
Since “My bad,” has become commonplace, there are thousands of people who face significant obstacles that cannot be bypassed with a press conference. People have created their own obstacles through actions that either landed them in jail or placed them on probation. The offenses may vary, however, the stigma and subsequent branding, as a result of these choices, remain for a lifetime.
Recently, lawmakers have started to acknowledge that many who are classified as felons are unable to re-enter the community as productive members of society due to their inability to find work. Simply checking one box on an application, brings any possibility of employment to a screeching halt. ‘My Brother’s Keeper,’ an initiative of the Obama Administration, has endorsed a movement designed to allow applicants to move further into the job application process. This initiative allows applicants to be evaluated based on the merits of their resume, and job experience, not solely on a criminal past.
Certainly, the elimination of, “the box” is just one step toward what is necessary to develop into a paradigm shift. The zero tolerance mentality has resulted in the creation of a judicial system that is anything but equal under the law. Race, gender, and economic levels all play a significant role in how a person is treated. It is not being suggested that society should turn its head when crimes are committed. However, what is important, is that after the penalty has been served, the individual is encouraged to re-enter society. Rather than allowing social isolation, employment can benefit in rebuilding a self-esteem that breaks the cycle of criminality.
Several studies by The Pew Charitable Trusts organization, have outlined the direct correlation that unemployment has on rates of recidivism. Across the country, states have been encouraged to eliminate “the box” from applications. With President Obama coming out publically on this issue, through executive order, lawmakers have been more willing to acknowledge empirical data that has become more irrefutable.
In a society that is selectively forgiving, it is important that all have an opportunity to move on from the past. Elimination from the workforce is not the answer, it perpetuates the problem. The time has come for the punishment to fit the crime and remove this life sentence.
By Garrett Sayers
National Employment Law Practices: BAN THE BOX: U.S. CITIES, COUNTIES, AND STATES ADOPT FAIR HIRING POLICIES
The PEW Charitable Trusts: State Policy
Think Progress: Obama Will Order Federal Government To ‘Ban The Box’
The Huffington Post: Obama To Announce Executive Action To ‘Ban The Box’
Image Courtesy of KAZ Vorpal’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License