“Ban the Box” Removes Barriers to Employment for People with Past Convictions
Bi-Partisan Legislation now heads to the Senate Judiciary Committee
(Santa Fe) -- A bill to "ban the box" on private job applications in New Mexico unanimously passed the Senate Public Affairs Committee this afternoon. SB 120, the Criminal Offender Employment Act Eligibility bill, sponsored by Senator Bill O’Neill (D-Bernalillo) and Representative Alonzo Baldonado (R-Valencia), will remove barriers to employment for people with criminal convictions by removing the question on private job applications asking if a person has ever been convicted of a felony. New Mexico law already has a ban the box law for public employers; SB 120 extends the current Criminal Offender Employment Act to include private employers. Six other states have already successfully expanded Ban the Box to the private sector (Hawaii, Kansas, New York, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and New Jersey).
"Finding a job is one of the biggest barriers for people with criminal convictions even if they are qualified for the positions they are applying for," said Emily Kaltenbach, director of Drug Policy Alliance’s New Mexico Office. " This bill is smart economic policy by helping boost our state’s economy and reducing unemployment. This bill is also smart on crime by focusing our resources to help reduce recidivism, rather than feeding into a cycle of incarceration. We know that people with steady employment are less likely to commit crimes. And finally, this bill is about supporting our New Mexico families. An economically stable family is a healthy family."
The bill will largely impact those individuals with criminal convictions from their youth who still must check the box despite their qualifications for the job or subsequent rehabilitation. Data suggests for every 20 people incarcerated, 14 (70%) will be left unemployed. Even if qualified, most formerly incarcerated people are often not even considered hires by employers. People of color are even more disproportionately impacted by hiring practices; studies indicate only 4% of black applicants with a criminal record were contacted for a callback interview vs. 17% of their white peers.
The legislation does not prevent employers from asking about conviction status during the interview process and does not restrict employers from conducting background checks on applicants.
The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) is the nation's leading organization of people who believe the war on drugs is doing more harm than good. DPA fights for drug policies based on science, compassion, health and human rights.