With Liberty And Justice For ALL??? Part 3: Ban The Box

James Johnson

“With Liberty And Justice For ALL??? Part 1: Addressing The Epidemic Of Mass Incarceration In America” can be read in the May 18, 2016 edition of The Chronicle and online at http://goo.gl/BfnzXi

“With Liberty And Justice For ALL??? Part 2: Addressing The Roots Of Recidivism can be read in the June 22, 2016 edition of The Chronicle and online at http://goo.gl/DxNHO1

By James Johnson

Everyday in America there’s someone being denied a job, housing, public benefits or other services. For many of these individuals it’s not because they’re unqualified or not in need, but simply because they have a criminal record. In contrast to applicants without a criminal record, ex-offenders are less likely to even be considered for employment. It’s also a stark fact that many housing providers are reluctant to rent to an ex-offender or allow an ex-offender to reside with their tenants. Another seemingly insurmountable obstacle faced by ex-offenders is furthering their education despite their criminal past. Needless to say, this stigma continues to fuel the epidemics of mass-incarceration and recidivism.
Civil rights groups and advocates of criminal justice reform have responded to this by embarking on a campaign entitled “Ban The Box”. Its aim is to persuade federal and local lawmakers to enact legislation requiring that the check box which asks if applicants have a criminal record be removed from applications for employment, housing, and various types of public assistance. Advocates believe that by doing so applicants would then have the opportunity to display their skills, qualifications, and/or needs prior to being questioned about their criminal background. It’s also imperative to note that such legislation does not prohibit conducting background checks, but rather it regulates WHEN inquiries may be made in regards to an applicants criminal background. 
For example, several states and municipalities that have already enacted this legislation, permit employers to ask about an applicant’s criminal record ONLY after he or she has been selected for an interview. However, some jurisdictions have passed more stringent laws which demand that employers wait until a CONDITIONAL offer of employment has been made before inquiring about an applicant’s criminal history. In California, the Fair Chance Act prohibits housing providers from considering a potential tenant’s criminal record without first determining whether they are otherwise qualified for tenancy. In the event that after verifying financial ability and references a housing provider denies a potential tenant’s application due to their criminal record the Fair Chance Act guarantees the potential tenant an opportunity to present evidence of rehabilitation and/or mitigating factors.
The concept of “Ban The Box” is now gaining momentum in regards to higher education as well. Some advocates are now striving to have the infamous checkbox removed from college applications. Despite having satisfied the terms of their sentences, ex-offenders are all too often reduced to nothing more than their criminal record. Several studies indicate that many ex-offenders won’t even apply to attend college simply out of fear of rejection. It’s undeniable that education is an effective tool in changing the trajectory of one’s life.   
If we desire to see ex-offenders stay out of prison and become productive law-abiding citizens then we should encourage them to further their education, which would enable them to better provide for themselves as well as their loved ones. While it’s not ideal thinking it’s REALITY that oftentimes people tie their self-worth into their ability to provide, and if they feel they’re unable to provide for themselves and/or their loved ones they tend to feel worthless. That being said, we must also understand that people who perceive themselves as worthless are far more likely to re-offend and be re-incarcerated.

By denying ex-offenders access to higher education or by complicating the process for them we’re yet again confining them to a mediocre life of poverty and crime. It’s about time that we uphold this nation’s creed of being a country where the is “liberty and justice for all” and allow these individuals equal access to the vital resources necessary for them to succeed as they endeavor to reclaim their dignity.
According to a June 2016 article found at www.nelp.org there are a total of 24 states that have adopted “Ban The Box” policies. It comes as no surprise at all that South Carolina isn’t one of them. It’s debatable whether this is because South Carolinians oppose the idea, or simply because state legislators don’t find it to be in the best interests of their political pandering to enact such laws. Regardless of which (if any) political party you choose to align yourselves with one thing we all should have in common is a vested interest in justice. That being said, we must realize that we’re not without the power to produce the change we desire. The power is ours, but it’s of no avail unless we utilize it.
The time has come for us to cease waiting for politicians who oftentimes couldn’t care less about improving the lives of their constituents to address and rectify the ills of society. Many of them are unable to even relate to the plight of their constituents. The only time we see them in our inner-city neighborhoods is when they’re campaigning. They put on a facade of compassion, sell us lies and false hope, then return to the luxuries of their lavish lifestyles. Need we be reminded that these individuals are elected officials, and as such it’s their responsibility to act on our behalf? Should they fail to do so then we must make our voices heard by refusing to elect and/or re-elect the hypocrites who betray our trust.
As it relates to “Ban The Box” if you support enacting this type of legislation in South Carolina then be sure to express your support to the state legislature.

Contact Gov. Nikki Haley at 803-734-2100 or at: 

The Honorable Nikki R. Haley
Office of the Governor
1205 Pendleton Street
Columbia, SC, 29201

Contact U.S. Senator Tim Scott at 843-727-4525 or at
2500 City Hall Lane
3rd Floor Suite
North Charleston, SC, 29406

You can also find contact information for any of his offices throughout the state at www.scott.senate.gov. 

Contact U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham at 843-849-3887 or at:

530 Johnnie Dodds Boulevard
Suite 202
Mount Pleasant, SC, 29464

You can also find contact information for any of his offices throughout the state at www.lgraham.senate.gov. 
You can also visit www.scstatehouse.gov to find a complete listing of all South Carolina legislators and their contact information. There you can also view essential information such as any bills they’ve sponsored as well as their voting records. It should be a priority for South Carolinians to know who the legislators of this state are and how they’re voting. Don’t allow yourselves to be deceived by their charisma and the flattery of their words. Their voting records tell precisely where they stand in regards to the issues affecting us. 
There can be no more neutrality. If they aren’t contributing to effective solutions then they’re the problem. If they aren’t voting in favor of legislation to produce the change we desire then THEY MUST GO!!!!!

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