City of St. Louis Bans the "Box" on Job Applications

Policy Aims to Give Deserving People a Second Chance

October 14, 2014 | 2 min reading time

This article is 7 years old. It was published on October 14, 2014.

The City of St. Louis today "banned the box." That means that applications for employment with the City of St. Louis will no longer require job applicants to check a box if they have a felony conviction.

"Millions of Americans have been convicted of felonies. Many of them have paid their debt to society and are willing to earn a second chance," said Mayor Francis Slay. "If we automatically disqualify all of them, and none of them can get jobs, we should not be surprised if some of them wind up back behind bars from committing more crimes."

"Ban the box gives people with records a fair chance to re-enter the workforce and make positive contributions to society," said State Senator Jamilah Nasheed, who urged the mayor to change the City's policy.

In March of 2013, the City ended its historic practice of automatically disqualifying applicants who were convicted of felonies. Instead, the City screens applicants on a case-by-case basis. For convicted felons, the City considers the specific circumstances, the nature of the crime, how long ago it occurred, and how it might reflect on the candidate's qualifications for the specific job under consideration.

Even though the City does not automatically disqualify candidates, some may mistakenly think so when they see the checkbox on the application form. Banning that box is the logical next step to removing employment barriers for people who have been convicted of crimes.

Certain jobs will continue to be subjected to a criminal background check, just as some require medical and/or drug/alcohol screenings prior to employment.

"This is a commonsense approach to removing the stigma of having a criminal record," said Mayor Slay. "We would not hire a child molester for a recreation program, and we would not hire an embezzler to handle money. But, many people who did wrong in the past could become very good employees today. We will make individual assessments instead of blanket exclusions."

The City also has a successful prisoner re-entry program. Ex-offenders leaving the state prison system are given access to a variety of services to help them become self sufficient without returning to a life of crime. The recidivism rate among the participants was less than half of that of inmates who were not part of the program.

"We believe in fairness," Mayor Slay said. "But, for people who do not agree with us on that, I hope to convince them that a good job stabilizes families, reduces crime and makes our neighborhoods stronger and safer. I hope private employers consider joining us."

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