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‘Ban the box’ bill passes in La. Legislature

31st May 2016   ·   0 Comments

Despite Louisiana’s reputation as the world’s “prison capital” and a state where there is a dire need for criminal justice reforms, a glimmer of hope shined through last week as the Louisiana Legislature passed House Bill 266, which would prohibit state employers from including criminal history questions on job applications.

The bill will now go to Gov. John Bel Edwards’ desk, where it is expected to be signed into law.

The bill prohibits state agencies from asking job applicants about their criminal histories before interviewing them for a position.

The New Orleans Advocate reported that a 30-6 Senate vote Wednesday sent the “ban the box” bill to Gov. John Bel Edwards, who supports it and is expected to sign it into law.

Proponents of House Bill 266, which received bipartisan support, describe it as an effort to help former inmates get jobs, to reduce recidivism and reduce prison costs. They also contend that state agencies could ask about applicants’ criminal history in interviews.

According to The New Orleans Advocate, the bill by state Rep. C. Denise Marcelle, D-Baton Rouge, applies to the state’s politically appointed “unclassified” employees and not rank-and-file “classified” state workers subject to Louisiana’s civil service system.

U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-La., last week praised state legislators for supporting House Bill 266, which many see as a positive step in the right direction for both the state’s criminal justice system and efforts to increase employment opportunities for ex-offenders looking for a chance to turn their lives around.

“The ability to find a job is critical for helping ex-offenders successfully reenter society,” Congressman Richmond said in a statement. “We know that people who are able to secure a good paying job shortly after their release are much less likely to return to prison. Unfortunately, a job applicant with a criminal record is 50 percent less likely to receive an interview request or job offer. These disparities are larger for Black applicants, who are three times less likely to receive a call back. By improving access to opportunity, we can reduce the prison population and make our communities safer.

“Improving access is the first step, but there are still too many employment restrictions excluding people with convictions from entering the workforce, both federally and in Louisiana,” Richmond continued.

“I applaud the work of Rep. Marcelle and the entire legislature on this bill as well as Gov. Edwards for supporting this cause. This is a very important step, but we must continue to support smart criminal justice reforms and reduce the collateral consequences of incarceration on our community.”

This article originally published in the May 30, 2016 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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