Wilm. City Council encourages "banning the box"

By Tom Lehman 11:25pm, December 6, 2012 - Updated 8:53am, December 7, 2012
Councilmen Justen Wright and Paul Ignudo weigh in.
Wilmington City Council has placed its support behind national "ban the box" efforts as a result of a resolution passed at Thursday's meeting.

WDEL's Tom Lehman has more.

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The council is recommending that city administrators remove questions regarding a job applicant's criminal conviction history on employment applications.

Councilman Justen Wright says many people who are reentering society are often discouraged when potential employers ask them about prior convictions. The resolution he sponsored calls upon city administrators to end the practice.

"By taking this action, we can restore hope, save money and give someone a fair chance and opportunity to present themselves as an individual and not immediately be frowned upon because of past behavior," he says.

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Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington D.C. are among the cities that already have policies where "banning the box" has already been implemented. A U.S. House Bill named the "Ban the Box Act" is currently in the committee stage and would affect employers nationwide if passed.

If the policies went into effect, the city could still do a background check after selecting an job candidate, but wouldn't ask for that information at the onset of the process. The resolution also excludes circumstances when an applicant was applying for a job that involved a field that is related to their conviction.

The resolution found unanimous support from council. Councilwoman Hanifa Shabazz supported the resolution, and says if the policies go into effect, they will encourage many to seek out legitimate employment.

"I know that has been a deterrent to many individuals, getting an opportunity to become good citizens and getting good, quality jobs," Shabazz says.

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Councilman Paul Ignudo says removing the initial scrutiny will help those who are seeking a job after incarceration.

"Stable communities a lot of times, have stable employment and a lot of our communities have high unemployment, and thus high crime," he says.

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