COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) – With a labor shortage plaguing most of the country, the need for workers is at an all-time high, but what if one question on an application is making employers view an entire group as un-hirable?
The Mayor’s Commission for Re-Entry, which is a group of partner organizations working together to assist adults who are exiting local and state incarceration facilities and their families, is aiming to break the stigma through the “ban the box” initiative.
If you’ve ever applied for a job, you’ve probably been asked about your criminal history.
According to the National Employment Law Project, a prior conviction reduces the chance of a job call back or offer by nearly 50-percent.
The Chair of the Mayor’s Commission on Re-Entry Kristin Barker said stereotypes about former inmates can be a huge obstacle to overcome.
“That’s not based on fact, that is based on the assumptions that are made and it limits people,” said Barker. “It hugely limits people from being able to get their lives back on track post incarceration.”
So how do we break through these assumptions and create an even playing field for formerly incarcerated individuals? Barker says this is where initiatives like “ban the box” come into play.
“The ban the box idea is really about breaking through assumptions and the biases that exist to open greater opportunity and second chances for individuals when it comes to hiring,” said Barker.
“Ban the box” urges employers to not ask questions about criminal records on job applications or during the interview process.
Barker says the commission’s goal is to educate employers, so they are less likely to make the assumptions and more likely to hire formerly incarcerated people.
“Some of the employers that we work with tell us, who regularly hire individuals who have backgrounds, that they end up being some of the best, best workers that they have,” said Barker.
She said the project is currently in the research phase and moving towards the implementation phase.
Barker explained this also helps build a stronger community by making sure everyone even those who have made mistakes get a second chance and know that their life has value and their skills are valued in our community.
Mayor Skip Henderson says the initiative provides a valuable second chance for people who may need it–but it is also a valuable crime prevention tool.
“It’s critical because if they’re not able to be self-sustaining then they’re just going to end up committing more crimes in the community and going right back to jail,” said Henderson.
“Banning the Box” is just the beginning. The Commission on Re-Entry helps these individuals get back on track in three ways: Housing, employment and re-entry resources.
The Georgia Department of Corrections, the department of Community Supervision and the local sheriff’s department are key partners of the Commission–aiding in the employment, housing and re-entry of former inmates.
For more information on the Mayor’s Commission on Re-Entry you can head to their Facebook page or you can reach Kristin Barker at email@example.com.