Push to “ban the box” achieves bipartisan support

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WASHINGTON- “It’s almost like a Scarlet letter,” said Heather Rice-Minus, of Prison Fellowship.

Criminal justice advocates say – one question – do you have criminal history – is blocking millions of Americans from snagging a job.

“They want to go back out and contribute to their families and they just keep running into these barriers,” said Rice-Minus.

Rice-Minus with Prison Fellowship says the question impacts the one-in-three Americans with criminal records and with few options. She says many wind up back in prison.

“It could be very defeating,” said Rice-Minus.

More than two dozen states have already banned the question from job applications.

And now Republican Senator Ron Johnson wants the U.S. government to do the same.

“It just gives people that that extra chance,” said Senator Johnson.

He’s partnering with Democrat Senator Corey Booker to pass the Ban the Box Act.

It would ban federal agencies and contractors from asking a job applicant’s criminal history before an interview.

“We’re just giving someone with that record a chance to have an interview and talk to that employer show an employer their value and worth,” said Senator Johnson.

Some researchers argue that without the question, prejudiced hiring managers may be less likely to hire people of color, fearing they may have criminal records.

Rice-Minus says that’s not a reason to kill the bill.

“We already have many laws that prevent against discrimination, “said Rice-Minus.

The bill passed the House last week.

Johnson says if he and Booker can build support in the Senate.

The President has been a strong advocate for prison reform.

“My guess is the president will definitely sign that into the law,” said Sen. Johnson.

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