Ban the Box – Removing Barriers to Employment for People with Criminal Convictions

One of the biggest barriers for individuals returning from jail or prison is finding employment. To help remove some of the barriers people with criminal convictions face to successfully find and secure a job, DPA-NM along with our community partners worked to pass a "ban the box" law for New Mexico during the 2010 Legislative Session.

By "banning the box," the question on public job applications asking if the person has ever been convicted of a crime will be removed. Applicants will be considered on equal status with other job applicants, and only during the finalist interview process will a criminal background check be completed if it is relevant or required for the position.

Background

Most applications for public employment require the applicant to check a "yes" or "no" box if they have ever been convicted of a felony. There is rarely an opportunity for the applicant to provide an explanation of the crime, the circumstances or date of the conviction, or any rehabilitation that has been completed since being charged.

"According to a major survey, 40% of employers will not even consider a job applicant for employment once they are aware that the individual has a criminal record."

The discrimination faced by individuals with former criminal convictions in the application process prevents many individuals from securing employment, despite their qualifications for the job.

New Mexico became the second state in the nation (following Minnesota) to "ban the box." The bill passed the NM state legislature with great support; passing 35 to 4 in the Senate and 54 to 14 in the House. Governor Richardson signed the bill into law on March 8, 2010. The effective date for the new law is May 19, 2010.

DPA-NM will continue to advocate for removing barriers to reentry to facilitate the integration of people released from jail or prison into our communities, and make our communities safer by decreasing the chance for recidivism.