When you are convicted of a felony, your whole life changes. But those changes aren’t just felt in the short term. For many people, a conviction can haunt them forever—making it difficult to find employment, a place to live, and sometimes to build relationships—despite them having “paid their dues” to society. In an effort to make reformation and rehabilitation more likely, Governor Mark Dayton signed legislation that will make finding a job at least a little easier.
Known as “ban the box” legislation because of the “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?” box on most applications, the new law will forbid all Minnesota employers from taking an applicant’s criminal history into consideration until they have been interviewed or offered the job.
The National Employment Law Project (NELP) says one-in-four Americans have arrests or convictions on their records, blemishes that might hinder them in the competition to find work. These records could be for minor offenses, mistaken arrests, or for serious crimes. But, regardless of the details, they have a negative effect on the person’s ability to stay out of trouble and earn an income.
In 2009, Minnesota passed legislation that limited public employers from considering a candidates history until they were selected for an interview. This legislation goes much further, and rightfully so.
Employers make judgment calls on people long before they make a job offer. As they sit with a stack of applications in front of them, an admitted criminal history could remove an applicant from the list of “possibles” without further investigation. It can be an immediate barrier.
More than 700,000 are released from prisons every single year. Not all of these people are worth the stigma that is attached to them the minute they step outside of the prison walls. Many of them are focused and determined to make a life as an upstanding citizen—many of them were doing just that before their run-in with the law.
Employment is said to be one of the main barriers for ex-offenders, and one of the most important factors that keeps people from reoffending. Anything we can do to level the playing field is a step in the right direction.
Employers have the final say in who they hire, but this law simply gets a foot in the door.
If you are accused of a crime, you could be in a situation that will change the rest of your life. Contact our office today to discuss your case and how we might be able to help.