The group of U.S. representatives wants the president to sign an executive order to ban federal contractors from asking if potential job seekers have been convicted of crimes.
The “box” in question is one that appears on federal hiring applications, asking job seekers if they have a criminal record. As part of an effort to reduce mass incarceration, many around the country have rallied for local governments and workplaces to “ban the box” from their hiring forms.
Now Congress is getting in on the action—by asking President Obama to take action.
“One in four Americans has a conviction history, which often excludes them from the workforce and from housing, creating new layers of crisis for our communities,” said Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) in a statement released Thursday.
“Ban the box is important for incarcerated individuals to have dignified lives,” Davis added.
In their letter to the president, the members of Congress wrote, “We urge you to build on your administration’s commitment to adopting fair-chance hiring reforms by committing the federal government to do its part to eliminate unnecessary barriers to employment for people with criminal records.”
The U.S. continues to lead the world in the rate of incarceration. More than 70 million Americans have an arrest or conviction that would likely show up in a routine criminal-background check, according to the National Employment Law Project. Blacks and Hispanics are disproportionately affected. Studies have shown that 1 in 3 African-American men will spend some time in prison during his lifetime.
The Congress members want the president to sign an executive order requiring federal contractors to refrain from inquiring about criminal records in the first stages of the hiring process.