“Ban the Box” mania sweeping across Michigan is a classic case of misplaced priorities. Instead of removing questions about prior felony convictions from employment application forms, our focus should be on  preventing youngsters on the fringes of society from becoming criminals in the first place.

Not only has Detroit banned the requirement that applicants for city jobs check a box asking about their criminal history, the City Council wants to go one step further and forbid vendors doing business with the city to ask the question.

“We need people to be judged on their character, not their crime,” says Kelsey Ellis, a member of the Detroit Action Commonwealth, which backs the ban. The Macomb County branch of the Michigan Prisoner Reentry Initiative (MPRI), says parolee job prospects have gotten tougher in a tight economy.

26290232-desperate-portrait-of-a-man-prisoner-in-prison-garb-over-white-backgroundThese claims, for the most part, are true. Thousands of ex-offenders are released from prison in Michigan each year, some for economic reasons – some from overcrowding. Since felony convictions are automatic barriers to employment, the reintegration of ex-cons into communities is difficult.

Although their debt to society was paid, many are woefully ill prepared for re-entry. Most ex-felons are either illiterate, or have less than marketable job skills and will have trouble finding a job under any circumstance. Without money, mentors, housing, skills and jobs to help them cope, they may comprise the next big crime wave. If the ex-con has an avenue into the workforce, the argument goes, he or she could become a taxpayer instead of a predator. Whether we enjoy safe neighborhoods depends on the choices they make during their first months back on the streets.

Good intentions notwithstanding, supporters of such efforts are intellectually misguided. Not much is known about the correlation between the “box” being banned and recidivism rates over the long term. It would not be out of disdain or compassion for felons as much as self-interest that argues for being cautious about helping them. The first job of government is to protect its citizens.

Coming to terms with crime must first deal with the fact that the children we fail to educate in our public schools are prime candidates for incarceration. The typical male prison inmate likely grew up in a single-parent, dysfunctional and poverty-stricken home, and has at least one close relative who has been imprisoned.

Parental supervision, discipline and a moral code of conduct among these disadvantaged children are weakened or nonexistent. Parental responsibility, though, is not something we can mandate. We can and must encourage positive behavior.

I know a young, single mother who shall remain nameless, who breaks the aforementioned mold. It is obvious to anyone who meets her son that he is bright, well mannered, well spoken and would make any parent proud. Like this mother has done, as early as possible we ought to communicate to our young that there are long-term consequences for breaking the law.

What is troubling about Ban the Box ordinances is that they put young people who are playing by the rules on an equal par with those who violated the law. In other words, giving ex-offenders equal access as non-offenders reveals our twisted priorities.

I’m not suggesting that we ignore criminals who are returning to our communities. We do so at our peril. But we have to be smart and recognize that giving offenders hope and a “second chance” discriminates against good kids.

The overriding operational principle should be “first do no harm’ to the youngsters who stay on the preferred path to success and opportunity. These kids need to know there are rewards for good behavior, including being first in line for the available jobs.

 

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14 COMMENTS

  1. Great Discussion. Upon release does the “System” provide the former felon the opportunity to become employed by directing the person to educational opportunities that can lead to job placement and employmment? If not should that be an obligation that society assume the burden of doing? A person with no job or access to work may eventually return to criminal activity.

  2. Mr. Johnson,
    If the city council passes this ill thought-out ordinance (to ban the box), every business should pick-up and leave. So far, this new city council has only made me wish that there was an aptitude test (box for intelligence) to run for office in Detroit. Only a Detroit politician would try to sell the idea that it’s ok to have an armed robber, murderer or a rapist working next to you without your knowledge. I’m just glad that this kind thinking is not pervasive in other communities. THANK GOD FOR 8 MILE!

  3. Bill, are you serious? This blog is nothing more than an exercise in double talk.

    Unfortunately, your position isn’t a position at all. It is reckless talk that only promises to stir confusion. So, please allow me to weigh in with some clarity on the issue:

    First, to “ban the box” doesn’t cost society anything to implement. Second, it doesn’t give any preference to former prisoners, but merely seek to give them an equal opportunity to access to job opportunities in those cases where talent is equal to position. It is a regrettable fact that far too many job applicants go overlooked, never making it into the interview room, as a result of the felony question on applications. To “ban the box” doesn’t guarantee jobs to applicants, nor are employers obligated to hire persons simply because they get interviewed. Further, as “free” citizens, even ex-offenders have a right to obtain gainful employment lest they are left to linger with no other options but continued offenses against society. At minimum, to “ban the box” eliminates one excuse for those who are quick to argue that prison background is an impediment.

    I agree that innocent children should definitely get proper education and be established on a foundation of values that will increase chances of success in life; but does it somehow imply this work is being neglected by asking businesses to stop discriminating before the interview process? Absolutely not! Many of the interviewees are parents of those very same children and want a second chance to be an example of the right way to go.

    Either felons are punished for the rest of their lives, or they are not. As a society, the answer to this question by government will determine if officials are truly trying to protect society. After all, if they are sincere then even former offenders are worthy of protection; and if not, then I say don’t complain when someone knocks you over the head asking for your wallet. Indeed, in a Darwinian environment of the survival of the fittest, of every man for himself, there are no rules or ethics. And to abandon a member of society to that mode of thinking is what’s irresponsible.

  4. Mr. Johnson, you column is filled with language that is offensive to “People” with criminal convictions. You use words such as “Ex-con” and “Criminals” very insidiously, as to caste a “Negative” light on the “81 Million” people (according to the Justice Department) living with a criminal conviction on their public records. Would you please tell me when has denying a person a job EVER made the community more safe? I just don’t see what your argument is! If a person never committed a crime in their lives, according to you, they should be able to feed, cloth, provide shelter for themselves and their children first! When you pay your “Debt” to society, that is suppose to be it!
    I would suggest that you applaud the passing of such an innovative initiative such as Ban the Box. It will be to the benefit of the American people to end the practice of “Civil Death.” By the way, you might want to do some research on the medieval practice of civil death before you go writing columns damning people with criminal convictions to a life of joblessness. While your at it, read “Civil Death in New York State,” written by me, and “The Mark of a Criminal Conviction” by Professor Devah Pager. Also, “The New Jim Crow” by Professor Michelle Alexander. You look like an intelligent, seasoned man. But, what you wrote was journalistic demagoguery.
    Punishments for crimes is the responsibility of “JUDGES AND PROSECUTORS,” not the general public; and this includes employers. The phony and fictitious argument that employers need to protect their employees is a complete and total “Fabrication.” More “So-called” non violent, law-abiding Mail-men committed crimes of violence on the job in the past 40 years than people with criminal convictions. I think your passion is misplaced. You know as well as I that – if a person cannot find a job, they will find a way to support themselves, even if they way is illegal! You do not have to agree with my assertion, but you should at the least review the pertinent information out their before you trash a brilliant idea. Can you imagine what a person with a criminal record must go through to get a job in this economy? Can you imagine what their children are going through? Do their children deserve to suffer with them? God forbid!

    Eric M. Deadwiley

  5. More often than not, a felony record translates into a “life sentence”, a life sentence to be judged on your past and not your future. I think that this topic is one that resembles a double edged sword, on the one hand we expect convicted felons to do a miraculous re entry into our society, work, pay taxes and be a model citizen, but on the other hand, we don’t want them working with us and we clutch our belongings when they walk by. I understand both sides of the coin and the real issue is with our own insecurities and personal bias’s. However, I do believe that education is the best path to personal and professional success and growth. Through education and a strong family support system (something most of our young adults are without) kids are almost guaranteed and brighter future than those that take a road of crime. The problem is, this “bright future” is almost non-existent in our inner city schools. Instead of college day where kids get to interview and read literature on colleges and universities, our inner city students are learning about the dangers of gang violence. Our priorities are wrong and our future leaders suffer. While the school boards bicker with state officials, one things looms in the background, and that is we still have under performing schools, one of the highest drop out rates in america, one of the highest crime rates in the country, one of the highest rates of young adults living with HIV, one of the largest populations in america for teen pregnancy and we have just been labled the angriest city in america by “Men’s Health” This is a recipe for future peril of our young people. If parents, teachers, school administrators and our government officials don’t drastically make a change in our schools, we will be standing next to even more convicted felons clutching our belongings.

    Damion M.
    Concerned Parent.

  6. I agree with Mr. Johnson, we need to prevent the youth of Michigan, as well as all American youths, from becoming criminals. Then you can think about “Ban the Box”!

    I do “NOT’ feel that this article or language is/or should be offensive to the people; we all get out of bed in the morning the same way. When I get out of bed, I choose a path that helps our society & empowers me as a citizen and individual, I chose to stay in school & continue my education and then to go out in society and work as a tax paying citizen to obtain the needs & wants that I earned. I chose not to skip school & travel down a dark road. Others, on the other hand, chose the path to not continue their education and to follow a path that was destructive & they feel that they are entitled to take what good citizens worked hard for & earned as their payment to society.

    I personally want to know who I am working next to or with. I do not want to be working next to a person convicted of rape, murder or a pedophile, nor do I want my family members working near or with them.

    I’m not saying these individuals shouldn’t have a chance at joining the working class, but they should divulge their criminal background. We as “free citizens” have the right to know who we are working with.

    As stated in the Michigan Policy Network, Urban Affairs, Ban the Box:

    “Opponents of the proposition say that the banning of the question would endanger law abiding citizens. This could also threaten the people who are required to work with these rehabilitated felons. These opponents state it would be important for current employees to know when they are working with a former criminal, especially one recently released from serving time.”

    We all have choices, those who chose the path to betterment shouldn’t have to suffer or be placed in the same category as those who went through life hurting good citizens & costing taxpayers money.

    Sorry Gentlemen, I don’t agree with your comments. Although I will say if it wasn’t for how certain members of society act, what would Sociologists have to write/teach about then? Keep pushing your book sales. Oh by the way, Professor Devah Pager’s dissertation (for his requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Sociology) (December 2002) is “The Mark of a Criminal Record” not Conviction.

    Sarge

  7. My name is Shaka Senghor, I am a freelance writer, author, mentor and community activist. In recent months I was employed full time at The Michigan Citien as a staff writer. During my stint with The Michigan Citizen I covered stories that are important to our community. I wrote about a young man who wrote a book in response to his father’s murder. I interview seven-time Grammy nominee The Floacist. I reviewed CDs, movies, and interviewed people from all walks of life in our community. On a weekly basis I work with high school students throughout Detroit as a mentor, as well as run my own publishing company (Drop A Gem Publishing). I have been published both nationally and locally, receiving great praise for my work. I have spoken at The University of Wisconsin as well as at The University of Michigan. I have accomplished all of these things while being on parole. That’s right I am one of the many convicted felons that you speak of.

    I have been given great opportunities based on the marketable skills I taught myself. If it was left up to the Michigan Department of Corrections and people like you I would likely be out committing more crimes. What you don’t realize is most people with a record were convicted as teenagers and young adults. Therefore we should be given an opportunity to earn a second chance.

    I don’t want any special favors or handouts, however I believe I deserve and equal opportunity to compete in the job market. My debt to society has been settled after nineteen years of incarceration, so why discriminate against me. If I am proving that I can be an asset to the community instead of a liability you should support and encourage me to do so.

    When you reinforce the stigma attached to a criminal record you are in fact promoting crime and violence against the community-And that sir is a crime in itself.

    Peace
    Shaka Senghor

  8. Hey Sarge.

    You have the right to your own opinion, but not your own facts. As I wrote in my last comment, “Punishment” is reserved for “Judge’s,” “Prosecutor’s,” and “Prison’s!” Once a person pays their debt to society, they DO NOT owe you or any other citizen ( who’s interest in the matter was fulfilled by the court) ANYTHING! Mr. Johnsons article is very offensive. You should not get the right to impose extra restrictions on “Rehabilitated” people. It is “So called” “Do Gooder’s” like yourself ( and I Highlight “SO CALLED,” because white people GET AWAY with crime all of the time) that make it hard for people who may have made a mistake in their lives to move past that mistake. You must be a white person! I’m sure you are some kind of “Christian or Catholic” as well. Would Jesus hold a past mistake against a person? What troubles me about most white people is they often forgive white ex-offenders (which have been empirically proven) and punish black ex-offenders “Forever.’ Racism rules your sense of sympathy and forgiveness. I wonder if you live around any black people. Did you know that 1 in 4 people have a criminal record? Approximately 81 million people (according to the Justice Department) out of a population of 307 million people in the United States. Soon it will be 1 in 3. To be honest with you, I don’t give a damn about what people like you think. This has nothing to do with your race though. This has everything to do with your twisted belief that people of color should be punished forever and never regain full rights and privileges which others enjoy. This is the essence of “Civil Death Practices.” I did not write my book for sales alone. I wanted to put out some information which the general public did not have. The facts mean something! The “Fact” of the matter (which AGAIN has been empirically proven) is that employment reduces crime. I study the works of sociologist and other academics because they do the scientific studies and have a command of the facts. You sir are only acting out of your personal fears and emotions. Stop the hate!

  9. This is the kind of discussion that a blog should stimulate amongst thinking individuals. However, Eric has allowed his disdain for white people to show up in this emotional topic. Eric, I did not see anywhere in Sarge’s response that it made reference to color or race. Sarge was commenting on how most law abiding citizens feel about this crazy notion of “banning the box” from applications. I’m not surprised that you (an ex-con) would like to blame someone else (white people) for the predicament you find yourself in because of your OWN actions. I for one am glad that you’re a rehabilitated felon, but that does not make you equal to someone who has never been incarcerated for hurting another human being. Please keep the box!

    BTW, I’m black and I would like to know if I’m working next to a “rehabilitated rapist.”

  10. Hey Pearl.

    It is obvious that you did not read my entire comment. In any event, I could not disagree with you more. As I said earlier, you are not “Special” because you never committed a crime! The “Ultimate” judge is “God.” You do not have the right to judge me or any other person with a criminal conviction on their records. Also, “As I said earlier” You and every other citizens interest in the crime and punishment of a criminal offender “ENDS” once the “Judge” (the person we appointed to pass judgment in these matters) hands out their punishment.

    Once the “DEBT” is paid, no one owes you a dam thing. Yes, I said that white people are racist even when the black applicant has “NO” criminal record. This is a historical fact! You as with Sarge pick the most egregious crime to highlight your point, “Rape!” Who in the hell would want a rapist working next to them or their female friends or family? That is the “Emotional” part of me saying that. The logical part of me knows that even a rapist has rights under our constitution and I would want to rehabilitate that person so he or she does not commit that crime ever again.

    There is a “Law” in life that you, Sarge and others similarly situated to you both don’t seem to understand, which is the law of “SURVIVAL.” This law say’s that a human being “Instinctively” will do whatever it takes to survive, even if it means destroying you and taking yours! For example, those folk who are of even medium consciousness know that this American lifestyle we all live is unsustainable in our global economic condition. This is why we are all over the world bombing the hell out of sovereign lands, making all kinds of excuses to do so, so that we may “Rob” them of their resources.

    The American government is committing “Murder,” “Robbery,” and “Assassinations” on a “GRAND SCALE.” Yet, you are concerning yourself about some “Petty ex-offender” who may have committed a crime over a decade ago while being a teenager, who may have small children to feed, a wife and plenty of bills to pay. You have no right to prevent those people from earning a living! Yet, if you do believe you have the “God given” right to re-punish a person financially because of your “Cowardly” fears, I would say that the soon to be 1 in 3 people (over 81 million people, and counting) with criminal convictions have the right to strip from you what you have. I will however, tell you this. I am a 44 year old black man, Author, home-owner, business-owner, tax payer and voter. I have accomplished all of this and more while living in a Brooklyn “So-called” “Ghetto” and “Yes” having a criminal record that is over 20 years old. What have you accomplished with your life? Stop the hate!

  11. I’d personally like to see “ban the box.” My history includes misdemeanor driving offenses, which are six and eleven years old, respectively. However, they are used as a screening mechanism on many company applications.

    When employers ask this out of the gate, it overshadows my MBA and impeccable work record. Really…the Secretary of State has forgiven my driving offenses. My driving record is now squeaky clean – no points, no accidents. Most of Michigan’s employers, however, seem to feel that it is fit to ask about ANY arrest or conviction during a lifetime – and they get away with it.

    Employers will inevitable conduct a background check where appropriate, and they can deal with the results at that time. In the meantime, let’s have a level playing field for everyone by “banning the box.”

  12. Dear sir,

    I read an article online from March about not marking the box for the criminal record. As great as that is for Detroit, the rest of the state if not following the same forgiveness factor that the city has. How does a person that has been in prison, deserved or undeserved, guilty or innocent, get a job in this state? I know how every person who has or is in prison doesn’t enjoy admitting to the fact that they committed a crime, but I did not. Still spent two years in prison for a wife who knows how to work a system and lies. How do I get a job now though. I just want to work toward forgiving her but find it almost incessantly difficult. I am a writer and in a university to be one. What can I do?

    thank you for any advice you can offer.

  13. Many of you have un-informed opinions resulting from assumptions that run counter to statistical facts. I would recommend to anyone interested, that they take the time to read, former US Pardon Attorney and current DC lawyer, Margaret Colgate Love’s work on the Collateral Consequences of Criminal Conviction. In this document, which can be easily downloaded in pdf format through a brief search of the above key words, she presents the results of a number of surveys which detail the hiring practices of employers with regard to ex-convicts, including a number of informative tables which chart the legal administration of such things as pardons, expungment possibilities, and the hiring practice mandates in terms of licensing, private and public employment, all broken down by respective State law. Because there is no federal law with regard to employers’ use of Criminal Background Checks, the laws vary per State – some, such as Alabama, have no State Legislation with regard to licensing and/or background checks, meaning ex-cons are completely at the will of employer’s hiring decisions, while others, such as Hawaii only allow a criminal record to factor into a hiring decision if the nature of the crime is similar to the nature of the business, or if that crime was less than 10 years old. Her findings (from 2004) were not only that the use of the pardon (and/or) similar expungement procedures has declined (despite the rise in the number of ex-cons in each State) and that legislation in almost every State has increasingly been disadvantageous toward the rights of ex-cons. While her interest is primarily in the legal status of ex-convicts in various States with regard to their legal right to either rid themselves of their criminal record through pardon/expungment, or with their ability to find and maintain work in various States through laws that are aimed at reducing the negative effects of “collateral consequences,” her overwhelming point references solid statisical correlations between an increase over the years in the use of CBC’s to pre-screen employees and increasing recidivism rates amongst ex-convicted felons (whether or not they actually spent time in jail). She writes, “While most states now routinely restore the right to vote upon completion of the court-imposed sentence, a criminal record can be grounds for exclusion from many benefits and opportunities, including employment in education, health care, and transportation.” Indeed, she could now add, “shelter” to that list since many apartment communities will deny a convicted felon’s rental application on the strength of a criminal record alone, no matter how much time has elapsed since the date of conviction. In each case, the motivating factor for a business to deny ex-cons employment, insurance, loans, housing, etc., is the potential for risk-hire lawsuits (an ex-con is hired or given residence by a company without a background check, said ex-con then commits a crime that targets a co-worker, or a customer, and the customer or co-worker then sues the company for hiring an ex-con in the first place – courts have, indeed, found in favor of the plaintiff in such cases, with huge resulting monetary awards that cripple the business). To avoid the possibility, more and more businesses are using Criminal Background Checks to PRE-SCREEN potential employees, leasees, etc., and since most States have no law against such practices on the books, these businesses are able to succesfully avoid lawsuits by perfoming CBC’s and using them to eliminate job/loan/lease candidates prior to actual consideration for employment. Really, a simple check of the classified ads on craiglist will show you this much, as oftentimes the wording of the ad makes it clear that a criminal record will BAR you from employment, no matter the nature of the offense, the length of time since its commission, or your subsequent employment and/or educational experience, since the ad is designed to pre-screen applicants before they EVEN BOTHER APPLYING!

    There are several strong arguments against this practice, and several in support of it – I’ll first consider arguments in support of it.

    1) The financial risk argument: From the perspective of the business. It makes sound fiscal sense. Eliminate the risk of a major lawsuit, by eliminating the at-risk group from consideration. From this perspective, as long as the cost of performing CBC’s on all applicants outweighs the possible negative finanical damage a risk-hire lawsuit might cause, then the practice is justified fiscally.

    A major problem with this argument is that it ignores the negative moral position presupposed by it. In effect, it deems financial considerations as more important than moral considerations (the discrimination of a minority segment of the population – in this case, ex-convicts). I don’t think most Americans would be in favor of any practice which discriminates against a minority in favor of the financial security of the majority – the Civil Rights debate essentially destroyed such reasoning, but so did our reversal on the scientific value of eugenics after we learned that the Nazi’s had taken our idea (read up on the history of eugenics in this country, particularly California and the close realtionship between American scientists and whom would later become Nazi scientists in the the early 1930’s) and applied it to their society in the form of first, an elimination of housing, employment, loan, etc. opportunities for a minority group, and later, through deft use of rhetorically charged slippery slope arguments in order to justify and make their citizens morally ambivalent to the elimination of the minority group from the society. Indeed, emotional appeals to faulty and unjust reasoning were used by our government to inter other minority groups in our history (Japanese-Americans during WW2) in order to justify the immoral treatment of a few in favor of the financial security (or emotional security, as the case may be) of the whole.

    2) The moral argument: From the perspective of the business and to a lesser degree, society at large, maintaining collateral consequences for convicted felons aligns with a particular Utilitarian moral argument. In such cases, the ends justify the means such that a practice that is discriminatory to a minority segment of a given population can be justified if it results in a greater good for the society as a whole. The thinking here is that while it can be admitted that pre-screening ex-convicts away from employment, leasing, loan opportunities, is indeed, an “evil”, it is a necessary evil, in that doing so allows for greater public safety with regard to the whole of society. Such a moral argument need only appeal to statistics which support the claim that ex-convicts are more likely to commit a crime in the workplace, in the housing community, default on loans, etc., than someone without a record. Such statistics are relatively easy to find as they are published often (in contradistinction to the dififuclty in finding studies with statistics which focus upon possible correlations between the increased use of CBC’s and the increase in recidivism rates, which should be easy to show given the variety of legal immunities provided to businesses given the State.)

    This argument is similarily flawed. Indeed, Nazi propaganda employed the use of statistics with regard to a minority race within their population in order to justify a form of Utilitarian social Darwinism aimed at the protection and the well-being of the whole long before Hitler developed his final solution to the Jewish problem. In order for Nazi Germany to view Jews as a problem, they first had to segregate them, then they had to reduce their rights through reference to statistical evidence that was already the product of a society with particular types of “collateral consequences” for being Jewish in the first place…In other words, one has no way of knowing if the recidivism rates cited as justification for this Utilitarian-themed moral argument are the product of “collateral consequences” already inherent in the society, or whether they are the product of what the argument assumes, that the criminal justice system does not work such that a one-time convicted felon will remain a criminal after serving his/her sentence. As a result, an appeal to recidivism rates may reflect upon the repeat offender, or it may reflect upon the failure of the criminal justice system in reforming the offender, or it may reflect upon a society which has developed a way of instituting “collateral consequences” on a selected minority group (a minority group need not be a racial minority), while the law of the country still lags behind such that it fails to identify the group as a minority in the first place and thus does not protect that minority group from practices that are segregative, thereby indirectly encouraging further segregative practices. These laws are prone to considerations that are extra-moral (such as the above fiscal argument), which is not as far as we might like to think from the slope leading to eugenics, profiling, and the eventual denial of basic civil rights for the selected minority group.

    In short, any argument which justifies the means in light of the ends is prone to accepting some highly immoral consequences. When aided by emotionally-charged rhetoric, those same arguments can be developed into public policy which aims to eliminate the minority group in a mis-guided effort to purify the national “gene pool” by ridding society of its various high-risk minority groups.

    Ban-the-Box legislation is an attempt by this society at correcting itself, in mch the same way as affirmative action was also an attempt by this society to correct itself. That attempt need not, and should not be permanent, but it is necessary given the current discrimination faced by ex-convicts in various aspects of their lives. Scientists now consider eugenics a pseudo-science that no legitimate scientist would perform, much less argue in support of. Our society corrected itself by realizing the horrible ethical consequences of social darwinism and an eugenics program that sought to eliminate at-risk groups through genetic and social engineering in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Our society should take the same stance with regard to the use of “collateral consequences” with regard to the minority group of ex-convicts.

    It isn’t merely a matter of showing that the practice makes good fiscal sense, or that the practice results in a better society as a whole – indeed, slavery results in a better society as a whole (assuming we do not count the slaves as part of that whole), yet slavery is still immoral. If you want to squash “ban-the-box” legislation in favor of “free enterprise” such that some other segment of society will benefit (youths fresh on the job market in a tough economy who have no criminal history, along with business owners?), you must show why it is morally justifiable to disenfranchise a segment of the population, and such an effort, in my mind, amounts to nothing more than propaganda. Your arguments will resemble the arguments made by the Nazi’s in favor of social darwinism during the late 1920’s and early 1930’s (before they started exterminating Jews – back when they only sounded like a conservative pro-nationalist party intent upon using social science, psychology, and other fields, to prove that a certain segment of their population deserved to be treated as something less than human, in order to protect, benefit, and improve the financial, psychological, and material well-being of the majority during difficult national financial times – post WW1), or, you’ll sound like a 1950’s southern white conservative intent upon supporting Jim Crow Laws in order to allow the Southern States the chance to fiscally compete against the more industrial Northern States by stopping the “muddying” of the waters of the Southern job pool due to a minority group of people who were statistically shown to be high-risk as potential employees, loan applicants, and leasee’s (sound familiar?) – Those statistics were cited in order to support the belief that it was not a history of segregation responsible for their inability to be as trustworthy employees, leasees, or loan recipients as the greater population, but the claim was that those statistics reflected something about the “nature” of the minority group as a whole.

    Unfortunately, the only legal recourse ex-convicts have in this country is through the civil rights act indirectly, since ex-convicts are not named in the act as a non-discriminable minority directly. Thus, class-action lawsuits against companies who employ CBC’s to pre-screen and eliminate ex-convicts from consideration on loan applications, apartment leases, and employment applications, are only viable through reference to a discriminated group – you have to be black and an ex-con to sue under the Civil Rights Act, or you have to be homosexual and an ex-con in order to sue under the CVA, etc. You cannot merely be an ex-con, and THAT is really what this whole debate is about. Choice.

    One does not choose to be born black, but presumably one chooses to be a criminal (assuming that being reared by a single mother on welfare while living in a high-crime city like Detroit while being surrounded by criminals who seem to be doing quite well for themselves to an undescerning youthful eye results in the kid CHOOSING at age 17 to rob a bank, or to stick up a liqueor store, etc., as opposed to being “bred” into it)…Still, that argument need not be appealed to here, as it did not need to be “settled” with homosexuality – is it a choice, or are they born that way? – I don’t know, and their is no clear consensus on it; however, there did not NEED TO BE a consensus of the choice versus born/bred debate, in order for our society to recognize that it was wrong to discriminate against homosexuals).

    There does need to be any final decision on whether or not a person chooses crime from the inside (personal psychological explanation – nature) or whether crime chooses the person (social psychological explanation – nurture) for our society to realize that the continued discrimination of the few CANNOT be morally justified in favor of the comforts of the many. It is, quite simply, WRONG, and ban-the-box legislation recognizes this moral fact, whether or not you do.

    Really, if you want to secure jobs for your youth, and guarantee that society will be free of ex-convicts commiting crimes ANYWHERE within said society, then when you lock them up, just dont let them out, no matter what they did to get there in the first place. At least then, our moral stance toward crime and criminals would not be so hypocritical, such that we consider prison as a place to “pay for one’s crimes” while we consider our society as a place where all “peoples are treated equal”. There are no qualifications to that second phrase, unless we have no worries that some of our great ideas (i.e. eugenics, segregation, internment, discrimination of selected minority groups) might lead down a slippery slope to atrocity. I, for one, will always argue against any form of discrimination which is absolute and unyielding.

    We discriminate against criminals and segregate them from society for good reason – they must learn from their mistakes and they must pay for their transgressions via the legal process. There is NO good reason to discriminate against EX-criminals who have paid for their transgressions and have learned from their mistakes. Indeed, if ex-convicts are statistically more likely to commit new crimes after incarceration then that speaks very lowly of our prisons and the way in which we treat them upon release, not upon them – unless, of course, our real attitude is something we don’t actually like to admit publicly – that a bad apple cannot be made good again (no such thing as rehabilitation), or that a bad apple is bad because it really isn’t an apple at all (criminals are not human in the way that non-criminals are human, and thus they should be kept separate as soon as they are identified, or they should be eradicated like a disease). I, personally, do not subscribe to the idea that “rehabilitation is impossible” nor do a subscribe to the idea that all criminals are mentally defective in some way that is permanent, and I think anyone that does is both mistaken and DANGEROUS.

    I am far more worried about having my civil rights trashed by people who think like you do because I belong to some minority group in some aspect of my life that society has suddenly deemed “high-risk,” or that one of my friends or family do, than I am worried that some ex-convict will commit a crime against me. That second worry is currently rather absurd given the statistical likelihood of that occuring in my lifetime; however, with each blowhard who goes on some blog and spits ridiculous arguments in favor of screwing over a segment of our population that is already in desperate straights, that personal fear becomes more and more real.

    Then again, the best argument for people of your ilk does always seem to be one based upon fear, since these days, that seems to be the only thing that motivates Americans to action. So how about this one, and I will put it bluntly as possible:

    If you make it impossible for them to live decently, they will cut the fat from your excess and take it for themselves. They have shown at least once that they are capable, so why the hell are you pushing them???

    I, personally, think that argument is flawed as well, and I think the rhetorical question at the end of it is ridiculous, but really, when reason fails to persuade, it been shown time and time again, that fear is the only thing left to motivate – our nation goes to war over fear. We have enslaved, stolen, killed races over fear. In fact, its at the crux of any argument in favor of discrimination.

  14. “But we have to be smart and recognize that giving offenders hope and a “second chance” discriminates against good kids.”

    This presupposes that the only “collateral consequence” against ex-convicts is the fact that they have been incarcerated, or convicted. The ex-convict would lose out to the “good kid” you speak of with regard to the potential of being hired, because the ex-con has a number of negative factors related to gaps in job history (due to incarceration), education, and lack of references.

    Aren’t the “good kids” good because they have established job histories, extensive education, impeccable references, etc, or are you referring to some mythological youthful entity that is good, but has no tangible evdience of said goodness in the form of any of the above – all of which the ex-convict is most likely deficient in?

    THINK, before you post such nonsense.

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