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City-County Council approves 'ban the box' proposal

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The Indianapolis City-County Council passed an ordinance Monday night that bans the city and its contractors from asking job applicants about past criminal convictions.

The council voted 26-2 in favor of the ordinance, which likely will be signed by Mayor Greg Ballard, who has expressed support for the "ban-the-box" concept in the past. Republican councilors Aaron Freeman and Jason Holliday voted against the measure.

The ordinance says city and county agencies and their contractors cannot ask about prior convictions on job applications or in first-round interviews, unless the applicant offers the information voluntarily.

The new ordinance governs the hiring practices of the city and its contractors. Sponsor Vop Osili, a Democrat, had hoped it also would apply to any company receiving economic development incentives, but that language was removed from the final version.

The local rule would not affect background checks required by state or federal law or the hiring processes established by trade unions.

The city already has a history of hiring people with convictions. Helping people overcome their criminal past is a priority for Ballard, who established the Office of Re-entry.

Many companies and cities across the company have been rethinking their policies regarding hiring ex-offenders. The population of former inmates has swelled, in part because U.S. incarceration rates more than tripled from the mid-1980s to 2010. About one in 35 adults was imprisoned at the state, federal, or local level or was on probation or parole in 2012, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

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  • ban it
    that box kills people like me. I collected a couple of felonies when I was 18, I'm now 36. these have haunted me ever since I acquired them. yea ok I made some really bad decisions when I was younger, but I havent been in any trouble since. how long should someone have to pay the price of not being able to get a decent job? in all actuality more strict and harsher punishments should be given to those felons that commit a crime at work where their felony past was looked over in the hiring process.
  • Background Checks Will Still Occur
    Jack, it's not a slippery slope. Any employer can, and should, still run a full background check, and the smart candidate will probably voluntarily bring up any significant prior conviction either in the first or second interivew. The ordinance simply prevents an employer from dismissing a candidate off-hand because of a prior conviction disclosed on an application.
  • Slippery Slope???
    Slippery slope??? hmmm? The slope favors who in this comment? Why would someone hire an individual that they have not given a background check to work on a job with them? It is public record! Ban the box will help reduce the rate of recidivism. I think it is only fair that a man or woman be given the right to speak about their history to an employer. Making mistakes can be the best teacher in the world!
  • Really?
    Really? Hired someone from Craig's List without a background check? Sorry he was ripped off, but who couldn't see that coming. Craig's List should be renamed Craig's Trash List.
  • Previous conviction
    slippery slope. One of our subcontractors hired an individual from Craigslist without a background check. The first night he broke into the project and stole the copper wiring. An arrest record as long as your arm.
    • Seems fair
      This seems fair. If an applicant is strong enough to make it past the first round, but a previous conviction is too concerning to make a job offer, it sounds like employers will be able to ask prior to 2nd round interviews or prior to making a job offer.

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