A Legal, political, and economic analysis of Ban the Box hiring practices
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More than 70 million American adults have some sort of criminal record, and more than 600,000 people are released from incarceration each year. Because many employers harbor concerns regarding workplace safety, productivity, and exposure to liability, individuals who were formerly incarcerated experience great difficulty in securing employment after they are released from jail or prison. The accompanying decrease in wages has negative economic consequences for those individuals, their families, and the community at large. The disproportionate representation of men of color in the justice system implicates civil rights and social justice questions. What’s more, because many employers over-estimate the risk of hiring individuals who were formerly incarcerated, businesses nationwide regularly fail to hire the most qualified candidates for job openings. This report examines legal protections afforded to people released from incarceration and the current efforts of public employers, primarily at the city and county levels, to reform their hiring practices with the goal of employing a greater number of qualified people with criminal records. The report also includes a brief discussion of the role that prominent private employers have played in shaping this policy debate. An analysis of the impact of modifying hiring practices would have on individuals formerly incarcerated, private employers, tax collections, government spending, and quality of life indicators suggests positive but modest effects. These findings indicate that enacting Ban the Box and fair chance hiring practices would be beneficial to people formerly incarcerated and their families with no detrimental effect on the vast majority of public and private employers. Moreover, the community would benefit from the positive effects flowing from an expected decrease in recidivism.