Groups call on New Castle County to "Ban the Box"

By Tom Lehman 11:12pm, November 12, 2013 - Updated 12:52am, November 14, 2013
VIDEO: WDEL's Tom Lehman talks with NCCo Councilman Penrose Hollins and Mike Matthews with ADA.
A local group is calling on New Castle County to "ban the box" and remove criminal convictions from job applications.

WDEL's Tom Lehman reports.

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Near the end Tuesday night's county council meeting, members of Americans for Democratic Action and the ACLU told New Castle County Council spoke about the issue during public comment.

"Recidivism is in issue here in this state, with 76 percent of offenders in three years of leaving prison being recommitted, reconvicted and being sent back to jail," said Mike Matthews, president-elect of Americans for Democratic Action in Delaware.

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Matthews, who is also an elementary teacher in Red Clay School District, said he has spoken with many employers who avoid hiring those who have indicated on applications that they have prior convictions.

Three council members said during the meeting that they would be in favor of the measure.

"It's just another impediment and I believe we need to get rid of all the impediments that prevent people from being productive citizens," said County Councilman Penrose Hollins (D-Wilmington North).

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Councilman Dave Tackett and Council President Chris Bullock also indicated they would also be supportive.

However, Councilman Jea Street (D-Wilmington South) was less bullish on adopting "ban the box."

"Conceptually, I agree. But I'm also an employer, wearing my other hat and I employ people who work with children. I want to know," Street said.

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Hollins said safegaurds would still be in place for those applying to county jobs that involve kids.

"You're still going to do the background check to ensure that they're safety for the youth and people they may be coming in contact with because of their responsibilities," he said.

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The City of Wilmington "banned the box" on applications for non-uniformed employees last year, through an executive order by Mayor Baker.

That mandate mirrored similar laws already in place at Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

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