Ex-Offender Speaks Out on Efforts to “Ban the Box”

February 26, 2014

When applying for a job, it's more than likely that you will be asked about your criminal history. There’s the option of checking yes or no on if you've ever been convicted of a felony.

City officials could get rid of that box for potential Charlottesville workers, leveling the playing field for employment.

“Ban the Box doesn't mean that employers won't have the right to do a background check on folks at some point, but it does get people in the door,” says Charlottesville Human Services Director Mike Murphy. “So you can really evaluate them on their knowledge, skills and abilities, rather than just that one box.”

One ex-offender, who did not want to be identified, spoke about why banning the box is so important for people like him to get back on their feet.

“I went from being able to work at a reasonably healthy living to having to go and take sporadic and low paying jobs.”

He was previously a licensed stock broker, but after having three DUI's in 10 years he had to serve time and now has a felony on his record.

“Once your time is done, then why should you continued to be punished.”

“Ninety-nine percent of people who have made mistakes in their past really just want to go on and try to prove themselves to society that they have made amends, that they have changed and they can be productive.”

Several Charlottesville businesses are already hiring ex-offenders thanks different programs that help people get back on their feet. Bob's Wheel Alignment is one of those.

“They showed appreciation, getting out and giving them a chance, because a lot of people get out and they can't get another chance,” says Bob Archer, owner of Bob’s Wheel Alignment. “Everyone deserves a second chance.”

Ten states and 50 cities around the nation including both Richmond and Norfolk have already adopted the policy. If agreed upon by city council, Charlottesville could be next.

In the state of Virginia, Senate Bill 250, that would prohibit state agencies from including the felony question on employment applications, was defeated on Wednesday. However, individual localities can create their own felony employment policies.

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