I want to thank Debbi Embry of the Tucson Urban League for her work on this issue and working with the Ward 5 Council Office to bring this forward for which the Mayor and Council voted unanimously in support of. What follows is here op-ed which ran in the local daily newspaper:
The Tucson Mayor and Council took important steps to ensure that every person in our community has the ability to live a life free of prejudice and persecution.
Their decision to “Ban the Box” (limit criminal history as a hiring consideration) on employment applications removed an insurmountable barrier for thousands in our community. This action sends a clear message to all that it is time to give people a second chance and begin reintegrating everyone into the fabric of our society. This act is good for individuals, families, our community and our economy.
Make no mistake, having a criminal record is a barrier to employment, and this barrier disproportionally affects people of color. Nearly 60 percent of the people served by the Tucson Urban League’s Employment and Training Programs have criminal records. We cannot build a sustainable economy or community when we exclude thousands of applicants from highlighting their skills and value.
Denying employment opportunities to anyone affects everyone. A recent National Institute of Justice report stated that when re-entry fails, the societal and economic costs are high. A high rate of recidivism increases the rate of poverty, increases crime, and puts more pressure on federal, state and municipal budgets.
We commend the Tucson City Council and the leadership of Councilman Richard Fimbres for “banning the box.” Now the city of Tucson will have the best candidates to draw from and that is a win-win for everyone.
Tucson is joining nine states and more than 50 local governments who have already “banned the box” in a variety of ways. Newark, for example, has prohibited all employers and all housing providers from inquiring about an applicant’s conviction record until that candidate has been found otherwise qualified for the job or housing.
The Tucson City Council’s action will follow the Equal Employment Opportunity Council’s recommendations, including:
Removing any question regarding conviction history from the job application, unless a background check is required by statute.
Limit background checks to positions requiring unsupervised contact with finances or vulnerable people (youth, elderly, disabled).
Postpone any background check until a finalist candidate has been selected.
If a background check is required for the position by statute, supply the job candidate with a copy of the background report. Allow that person to correct any inaccuracies.
Consider only convictions directly related to the responsibilities of the position, as required by federal and state law. Do an individualized assessment of whether or not circumstances connected to a prior conviction may be repeated.
Allow the finalist to explain the circumstances of the conviction, and to offer evidence of his or her rehabilitation.
These simple acts will increase opportunities for thousands within our community. It is the fair, safe and right thing to do. The time has come to ban the box.
Our past should not define us. We need to provide people with the opportunity to become contributing members of our society. We must provide fathers and mothers the opportunity to live up to the dreams of their children.
We must remember that although a person may have made a mistake, that does not make them a bad person. We are a nation built on laws. We are also a nation that must believe in forgiveness and second chances.