Gov. Terry McAuliffe did the right thing the other day when he issued an executive order directing state agencies to “ban the box” on job applications. The phrase refers to removing a standard question asking whether an applicant has ever been convicted of a crime.
Seventy million Americans have been, and to presume all of them are too dangerous to hire is irrational. Many people who have scrapes with the law in their youth go on to lead productive and responsible lives as members of the community. (Indeed, even some hardened criminals have been known to turn their lives around.) Were it otherwise, then every prisoner should serve a lifetime sentence.
Most don’t, of course, because many offenders need only a short time behind bars to get their heads on straight. Refusing even to consider an offender for a job — even if his or her crime took place in the distant past — makes little sense.
Now, some crimes are more serious than others, and some jobs are too sensitive to fill with just anyone. Nobody wants a convicted pedophile working in a day care center or an embezzler working in the business office. Banning the box does not mean eliminating background checks entirely. Once an applicant has progressed to a certain point, agencies will be able to perform such checks, to make sure there’s nothing in a person’s history to prevent hiring.