The major problem with this effort is that it removes the ability of employers to protect their customers from potential depredations of former criminals who may or may not have rehabilitated.
Other problems are noted in this article from the Sacramento Bee.
After joining a gang as a teenager, Wayne McMahon spent 25 years in and out of California prisons. Hearing that his nephew was headed down the same road finally gave McMahon, at the age of 45, the motivation three years ago to start changing his life.
“You get to a certain age where you see that Mom and Dad were right most of the time,” he said.
Step by step, McMahon is transitioning back into society – leaving his gang, attending rehab and paying restitution for his crimes – but steady work has eluded him.
Despite looking for months, McMahon said he can only get side jobs taking care of people’s yards, maybe once or twice a week. He said employers never seem to get beyond his criminal record, which includes arrests for drugs, burglary and an attempted murder that he says was revenge against a man who raped his sister.
“Once they see you’ve been convicted of a felony, they say, ‘Don’t call us, we’ll call you,’ ” McMahon said. “You don’t get the opportunity to explain to them.”
California could soon make his search easier by eliminating the felony conviction box from job applications altogether.
Building on a 2013 law that prohibited public employers from asking about criminal history on the initial application, Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, has introduced a bill this session to expand the policy to private companies. Assembly Bill 1008 forbids inquiring about an applicant’s conviction record until they have received a conditional offer.
“This removes some of these arbitrary qualifiers,” McCarty said. “It does give people a chance to get their foot in the door.”
The idea has taken off across the country in recent years: 25 states and more than 150 cities and counties now have “ban the box” laws in place, according to the National Employment Law Project. In nine states and 15 cities, including San Francisco and Los Angeles, the policy applies to private employers.
In 2015, then-President Barack Obama endorsed the policy, instructing federal agencies to remove questions about prior convictions from applications and urging companies to pledge to do the same.
But some remain skeptical of the approach. Several recent studies concluded that banning the box actually hurts many of those it is intended to help by increasing bias against black and Latino job applicants that employers may assume are more likely to have a criminal history.
“The problem of ‘ban the box’ is it doesn’t do anything to address employers’ concerns about hiring people with criminal records,” said Jennifer Doleac, an assistant professor at the University of Virginia’s Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. “Hiding the information from them during the application process will put some of them in the position of simply trying to guess.”