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A woman's hands behind bars
Gov. Dave Heineman signed a bill Wednesday making Nebraska the 11th state that bars employers from asking prospective employees if they have a criminal record. The prohibition is a provision in a law designed to reduce prison overcrowding. It removes a box that asks job applicants whether they have been arrested or convicted of a crime. Checking that box instantly keeps many job seekers from getting hired for the lowest-paid jobs.

In fact, unemployment among ex-convicts, studies indicate, can be as high as 75 percent. A study in New York City found applicants admitting they have a criminal record were 50 percent less likely to be offered a job. Not surprisingly, in one more impact of the racist nature of the criminal-justice system, black applicants with records were far less likely than white applicants with the same background to get job offers.

Besides banning the box, the Nebraska law also includes provisions for job training, mental health and transitional programs, reports Annie-Rose Strasser:

The bill passed with “little fanfare,” said a spokesperson for the Governor. It was approved by the legislature on a vote of 46-0.

State Senator Brad Ashford (D-Omaha), who authored the bill, said that the potential budget savings from helping keep people out of prisons was one of the keys to getting everyone on board. But he also said the state has been focused on criminal justice issues for a while—they started with juveniles—and that there’s been consensus from Republicans and Democrats alike on it.

Please read below the fold for more on this story.

Keeping ex-offenders out of the workforce is a guarantee of a high recidivism rate. That's something Nebraska can't afford. A report released last month found the state's prisons are collectively at 154 percent of maximum capacity and admissions are at their highest in 10 years.

The "ban the box" effort began in 2003 through the efforts of Linda Evans and the group All Of Us Or None:

“We organized six peace and justice community forums around the state [of California] where formerly incarcerated people testified,” Evans recalls. “It became immediately clear that fundamental discrimination based on our arrest and conviction records was our problem, and that we had to go after that.”
In addition to 11 states, some 56 local jurisdictions have enacted ban-the-box provisions.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Fri Apr 18, 2014 at 09:23 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  the workaround is the HR "background check" (14+ / 0-)

    provision indemnifying institutions from liability that is simply a carte blanche for unbonded fishing expeditions by the same anonymous personnel responsible for identity theft proliferation as well as unaccountable discrimination

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013 (@eState4Column5).

    by annieli on Fri Apr 18, 2014 at 09:30:55 AM PDT

  •  Okay this is huge... (11+ / 0-)

    And I especially love this part:

    "But he also said the state has been focused on criminal justice issues for a while—they started with juveniles—and that there’s been consensus from Republicans and Democrats alike on it."
    At least Republicans are actually working with Democrats somewhere.

    I love president Obama!!!

    by freakofsociety on Fri Apr 18, 2014 at 09:38:48 AM PDT

    •  I keep wondering where the NE tea party is? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eric Nelson

      Can't these obstructionists find something harmful to do here?

      What stronger breast-plate than a heart untainted! Thrice is he arm'd, that hath his quarrel just; And he but naked, though lock'd up in steel, Whose conscience with injustice is corrupted. Henry VI Part II Act 3 Scene 2

      by TerryDarc on Fri Apr 18, 2014 at 12:17:07 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Maybe I don't... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        TerryDarc

        ...follow local politics as much as I should, but I really don't hear that much about the Tea Party at work here in NE. At least I like to think that our Republicans are the mainly the traditional establishment pro-business / pro-wealthy / anti-abortion / anti-gay types, and not the insane/vindictive "taxes are stealing" Tea Partiers. Though there was that "can't consider human causes" climate change study awhile back...

        "Elect Republicans, and they will burn the place down. And they will laugh while they do it and have a great time. And then what?" -- Rachel Maddow

        by LumineHall on Sat Apr 19, 2014 at 02:06:26 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Well, it's just remotely possible (0+ / 0-)

          that Fox News is pimping up the Tea Party. Here in Oregon, I've only seen a couple signs for gatherings. No idea how successful they are, even though our congress critter, Walden is basically a TP'er.

          What stronger breast-plate than a heart untainted! Thrice is he arm'd, that hath his quarrel just; And he but naked, though lock'd up in steel, Whose conscience with injustice is corrupted. Henry VI Part II Act 3 Scene 2

          by TerryDarc on Sat Apr 19, 2014 at 10:37:36 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Of course it was received with "little fanfare". (5+ / 0-)

    Only bills that punish people for life are popular in today's America.

    Pope Francis: the Thumb of Christ in the eyes of the Pharisees.

    by commonmass on Fri Apr 18, 2014 at 09:39:41 AM PDT

  •  How do day care centers and schools (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eric Nelson, Roadbed Guy

    keep from hiring repeat offenders under this ruling?  While I'm in favor of opening work opportunities to released convicts, the special vulnerability of children gives me some concern.  

    Perhaps this law has exceptions for jobs in these types of settings. When applying as a volunteer for a homeless agency which serves children, I had to get fingerprinted and answer all sorts of questions about myself.  

    It's the Supreme Court, stupid!

    by Radiowalla on Fri Apr 18, 2014 at 10:13:08 AM PDT

    •  What about a clear distinction between victimless (7+ / 0-)

      ..crimes and non-victimless crimes. A repeat child molester, rapist or a Wall streeter/Big banker all who have victims on their record would not be allowed the protections that someone busted for smoking a joint (victimless) would get. Would that work better? Seems like it could to me.

      The question that should be part of the deal: is the person a danger to society or not. If they're not and have done their time, their records should be sealed or expunged - imo

      •  I think you are on the right track. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Eric Nelson, a2nite

        I don't know enough about the Nebraska law to judge whether there are presently any exceptions for these types of settings.  

        It's the Supreme Court, stupid!

        by Radiowalla on Fri Apr 18, 2014 at 10:54:21 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Maybe victimless crimes shouldn't be crimes? (4+ / 0-)

        But unless and until we're ready to eliminate all criminal penalties for drug use, barring employers from asking about an arrests or convictions for victimless crimes would be a useful half-measure.

        We're all pretty strange one way or another; some of us just hide it better. "Normal" is a dryer setting.

        by david78209 on Fri Apr 18, 2014 at 11:14:37 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  It sounds like they can still ask (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          david78209, untorqued

          about history in the interview -- so if there's a gap in the work history they could ask for a reason, then judge accordingly rather than just tossing the application in the shredder.

          There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- goddammit, you've got to be kind. -- Kurt Vonnegut

          by Cali Scribe on Fri Apr 18, 2014 at 11:32:46 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  How about auto-pardoning for victimless crimes? (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Eric Nelson, david78209

          If I am not mistaken, a pardon erases the crime from ever happening doesn't it?  I think it erases the conviction and there is no requirement to report it any longer.  

          If all judgements came with a determination of whether it was non-violent and elidgible for an auto pardon, once the sentence or fine or waiting period was complete, the debt to society would be considered paid-in-full and the auto-pardon would erase it from everyone's memory never to be officially brought up again.

          I think it would work to reduce recidivism and return first time offenders back to productive members of society without the stigma of being an ex-con.  I believe the Christian bible says something about forgiving others or something like that...

          "Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not YET sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favour..."

          by Buckeye Nut Schell on Fri Apr 18, 2014 at 12:03:33 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  I don't think such places rely on a check box on (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Buckeye Nut Schell, redwagon

        the employment application.  I'll bet they run background checks.

        LG: You know what? You got spunk. MR: Well, Yes... LG: I hate spunk!

        by dinotrac on Fri Apr 18, 2014 at 11:27:56 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Family member manages facility for a big company (6+ / 0-)

    ...well known for a hardnosed attitude towards security.  

    He has a variety of trick questions designed to identify people working there who have been recently released from prison.  From his reports of the legal scrapes of the staff, a "Yes" doesn't usually keep them from working there, but does subject them to extra scrutiny from security.

    This law does seem to have limited usefulness because of the pervasiveness of background checks and "big data", but may help ex-offenders with getting entry-level jobs shortly after release.

  •  Years ago I had an aquiantance with this story (13+ / 0-)

    ..almost the exact story. It has been a question I wondered about for a while now.

    It's one of the comments in the Think Progress story David Throop ·  Top Commenter · Davenport University

    Speaking as a one-time felon I can say it would be great if this was implemented everywhere. I did my time long ago for a marijuana offense. My jail time and probation (no prison) were completed twelve years ago but it still follows me around. I have been denied employment, insurance, a home loan and had to have a "designated representative" to even receive food benefits. The cycle seems to never end. Especially during times of high unemployment getting any job is extremely difficult. It doesn't simply go away with time. The only way to get it removed from my record is to pay court and attorney fees to petition the court in the hopes it gets expunged. Even that process which can be costly can't even be considered until seven years after the completion of the sentence.
    ..his (my brief acquaintance's) dream was to be a teacher. He'd almost finished getting his degree but an arrest stopped all that.

    So this action from Nebraska (posted in above Diary), seems like a very good start to me.

    Maybe though, for non-violent crimes or victimless crime we should go further: SEALING/EXPUNGING ARREST AND CONVICTION RECORDS as this article is showing how to do. But why not make it Federal law? because of this:

    As many as 64 million Americans have arrest records, many of which never resulted in conviction. More than 600,000 individuals are released from state and federal prisons every year; hundreds of thousands more are leaving local jails or are serving their sentences in the community. Many of these individuals encounter the stigma associated with having a criminal record as they try to become productive members of society. They also face an explosive growth of legal roadblocks in the form of state and federal laws that make successful reentry much more difficult.
    a major road block that actually creates the rate of recidivism. And what is the purpose of it? especially for victimless crimes like carrying a joint or something.

    Big Bankers who rip off billions have millions of victims so that's not what  I mean. They should get hammered - imo - which they don't more often than not

    I asked this acquaintance what he planned to do, since he believed his teaching career had no future and he said; 'well f**k it I might as well continue growing weed.'

     Maybe he was just dejected at that point and pissed and didn't really mean it, but it seems that it's an actual statistic. A statistic created by (in my opinion) a discriminatory system.

    Because once a person has done the time, why are their personal records any business of anyone else?

    So it's good to see solutions to this issue making some headway

    Thx MB

     

    •  THIS (4+ / 0-)
      But why not make it Federal law?
      Seriously. The data mining to find "pure employees" in this country has to be reined in somehow. This is ridiculous. Only the truly pure can qualify.

      Now you know why there's a "shortage" of available workers?

      This all started with "what the Republicans did to language".

      by lunachickie on Fri Apr 18, 2014 at 10:56:34 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  They're not supposed to ask about arrests, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Buckeye Nut Schell

      only convictions -- that was established decades ago, because arrests are disproportionately people of color and don't prove you're a criminal, only that the police target your group.

      •  But they do.... (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Eric Nelson, TerryDarc, Turbonerd, ARS

        I had to go to downtown Columbus and pay a quarter (eighteen years ago) for a copy of my arrest record to apply for a job once.  To my shock, it was a full page long.  A couple years before that, I had been arrested for a fight in which I was assaulted but I ended up hurting the other guy.  There were numerous charges listed separately that were all related to that but it was not readily apparent it was the same event looking at the list.  What made it look even worse, I was initially bailed out and then when I returned to court, they reinserted all of those charges a second time as they technically "arrested" me again prior to the court hearing.  

        All charges were dropped once I got to court and I was completely exonerated by that did not change the fact that I was arrested for it and I had to explain it to my prospective employer.  That was for a maintenance job.  Imagine if it had been for a teaching job or and engineering position or some other kind of technical position?

        "Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not YET sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favour..."

        by Buckeye Nut Schell on Fri Apr 18, 2014 at 12:20:06 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I worded that wrong. My acquaintance... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Turbonerd

        ..was convicted, but given a choice; prison or re-hab. He chose rehab. But his record remained on the books

        sorry about that

        and I missed spelled acquaintance

    •  Eric let me say (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eric Nelson, TerryDarc, untorqued

      that it is an abomination to keep punishing people such as yourself long after the dues were paid in full.

      The mere fact you had to pay those dues because of some marijuana is above and beyond, then to continually harass you years later should be a crime.

      Let me say that again, to continually harass you years later should be a crime. The laws need changing, they are unjust to the core and nothing positive is being served.

      The justice system is being designed to keep people revolving in and out of prison and jails to satisfy the for profit prisons and their shareholders.

      As if we don't have enough behind prison walls now, America wants more.

      Best of luck in all future endeavors.

      "We can either have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both." Louis Brandeis

      by wxorknot on Fri Apr 18, 2014 at 12:12:34 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Agreed wholeheartedly but it really was an.. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        wxorknot

        acquaintance, not me. Although it just as easily could have been.
        If fact he grew a couple of spindly little plants in one of those kitchen counter grow light contraptions in a dorm (dumb move imo) and got turned in by another student, whereas I grew out door tree sized plants in a remote area  but never got busted

        hypothetically I grew them ...

  •  Wait - how can this possibly work? (0+ / 0-)

    The FDIC has a list of offense that bar you from working in a bank. How does the employer find out if the applicant is trying to skirt those laws?

    I'm sure there are other positions and other bars.

    "Emancipate yourself from mental slavery. None but us can free our minds." - Bob Marley

    by nightsweat on Fri Apr 18, 2014 at 11:12:36 AM PDT

    •  You ask them in the interview (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Meteor Blades, untorqued

      and conduct a background check -- just as many employers will do with all prospective candidates (those who make it through the interview process and wind up on the short list). All that checking "the box" does is lump everyone in the "do not hire" camp...even those whose offenses have nothing to do with the FDIC restrictions.

      There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- goddammit, you've got to be kind. -- Kurt Vonnegut

      by Cali Scribe on Fri Apr 18, 2014 at 11:37:48 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Mixed feelings about this. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    larryrant

    I've been hiring people for years. Knowing whether they've been convicted of a felony (that is the question on the standard employment app ... NOT whether they've done prison time)  has always seemed relevant.
    I suppose, after consideration ...  perhaps it's not all that important, but I do have to send people into other people's homes ... and it just seems slightly relevant to know those details.
    Now ... I would also add, that I have never turned down an applicant if they checked the felony box. It's actually a clue about their honesty. And ... I have purposefully hired people straight out of prison because ... IMO ... good hard construction labor with fair compensation builds self esteem and can be a great leg up toward getting your shit together.
    I guess it's probably a good idea to just eliminate the question to give people who have paid their debt an equal shot at a job.

    •  If more people were like you (0+ / 0-)

      then laws like this wouldn't be necessary. But too many people jump to the conclusion that "make one mistake and you pay for it the rest of your life" is a Good Thing and immediately toss those applications in the trash. I dated a guy for several years who worked in HR, and that was the policy at the company where he worked even though he thought it sucked.

      There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- goddammit, you've got to be kind. -- Kurt Vonnegut

      by Cali Scribe on Fri Apr 18, 2014 at 11:42:48 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Does it really matter? A serious question: (0+ / 0-)

    Here's my question -- don't employers still have the right to require a criminal records check, for any job involving contact with the public (as most jobs do)?

    I've had a number of ex-prisoners tell me that they were unable to get jobs (such as cook in a restaurant) because they couldn't pass the criminal records check, and/or did not have a valid drivers' license (often due to past DUI or similar offenses, or not paying fines from previous traffic stops). So "banning the box" on a job application gets you past that hurdle, but then you'll get rejected later in the process anyway, or so it seems to me.

    And in light of the number of whackos who behave badly in the workplace (such as shooting up the place because they didn't get the day off they requested, or whatever), plus liability for sex offenses by employees, it seems to me employers aren't likely to give up the criminal records check part any time soon.

    Perhaps I'm wrong -- would love to be on the side of people getting back into mainstream society, getting a second chance, and all that. Any comments/clarification?

  •  I also have mixed feelings. While I understand (0+ / 0-)

    that it gives an applicant an opportunity to explain themselves, it can have the effect of wasting everyone's time in jobs that would never under any circumstance hire someone with a record. If a background check will be conducted and that is still allowed, what is the purpose of bringing in someone who has a record and would will be eliminated at the first sign/mention/revelation of that fact? It also eliminates one step in the process to "catch" someone who might be trying to hide that information...although, granted, someone doing so may (probably) will lie anyway.  

    It is not just schools and day cares that could potentially be liable for accidentally hiring a criminal but any service company that involves contact with people....if anything were to do wrong and this could happen in all positions.  A janitor in a nursing home who steals or harms someone, a clerk in a department store who steals customer information, a car hop at Sonic who does not give the correct change, a groundskeeper of a park or pool who is inappropriate with a child, a contractor who enters someone's home and steals, a hotel maid who harms someone.....and on and on. There are not many positions in which an employee would not be in some contact with people and/or goods that make criminal history irrelevant or a non issue and as long as the company that hired them can be sued, held liable, or lose money and profit for doing so...it will unfortunately make hiring criminals of any kind very difficult.    

    I agree that victim less crimes should be done and over with once time is completed and records removed permanently.  However, I doubt that will happen in my lifetime.

  •  boy am i pleasantly (0+ / 0-)

    surprised by this development coming from a rock ribbed red state, i will have to check tomorrow morning and see if the sun still rises in the east, if it doesn't i won't be as shocked as i would have been yesterday.

    save amereica defeat all republicans and conservatives

  •  This is because a large portion of Nebraska's... (0+ / 0-)

    population are now ex-convicts. This is what happens when you have a prison industry.

  •  Now I'm torn (0+ / 0-)

    On the one hand, this is a good thing Nebraska has done.

    OTOH, I'm still a fan of Sooner football.  :)

    Tough to give it up for the Huskers, but they earned credit on this one.

    "People should not be afraid of their government; governments should be afraid of their people." --V

    by MikeTheLiberal on Fri Apr 18, 2014 at 12:21:04 PM PDT

  •  I think that most good employers have a work - (0+ / 0-)

    around plan for this question. Something like instantcheckmate.com

  •  this is good, but can they still make (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Eric Nelson

    credit checks?

    That's the thing I'm most looking to see end, as it horrendously hits everybody, including probably most ex-cons, who most needs a job.

    Sure once I was young and impulsive, I wore every conceivable pin. Even went to socialist meetings, learned all the old union hymns. Ah, but I've grown older and wiser. And that's why I'm turning you in. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u52Oz-54VYw

    by SouthernLiberalinMD on Fri Apr 18, 2014 at 12:46:35 PM PDT

  •  I always checked criminal records online (0+ / 0-)

    whether I was hiring or considering a tenant application when I worked for a large landlord.

    A history of repeated offenses indicates that the person is not learning how to stay out of trouble.  Since our employees worked on our properties and entered tenants' units for repairs, we didn't want to hire anyone convicted of violent crimes or sex offenses, and we didn't want them as tenants either, especially in buildings where children lived.

    For tenants, we didn't rent to folks with repeated drug or alcohol related offenses because they often owed money to the courts, which would always have priority in collecting money if they were evicted for non-payment of rent.

    If the offenses were long past, and it was apparent that the offender had changed behavior, then we would consider them.

    "Everybody wants to go to Heaven but nobody wants to die" --- Albert King

    by HarpboyAK on Sat Apr 19, 2014 at 02:26:04 AM PDT

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