Councilors poised to ban criminal-history question

Gooden Gooden

A bipartisan group of Indianapolis city-county councilors is prepared to ban the box—shorthand for preventing city and county agencies from including a question about criminal history on job applications.

Similar restrictions have passed in Philadelphia and Detroit. Democratic City-County Councilor Vop Osili has promoted a local ban as a way to help the roughly 5,000 people who return to Marion County from prison each year to get a foot in the door with employers.

Osili said he expects to draft a “ban the box” ordinance this spring or summer. The language specifying at what point in the application process criminal history could become an issue still has to be worked out.

Republican Councilor Will Gooden, who served on the council’s offender re-entry study commission with Osili and Democrat Mary Moriarty Adams, said he’s willing to co-sponsor the ordinance.

“We’d be setting an example, and then it potentially encourages private businesses in the area,” Gooden said.

Banning “the box” did not rise to the top of the commission’s priority list. A report due out in May will place highest importance on helping offenders keep the jobs they do get by shifting required drug tests and probation meetings to evening hours. Businesses that employ offenders cited the workday disruptions as a major disincentive.

Banning the box fits the commission’s larger message, Gooden said.

“We need to recognize employment is one of the most important factors, if not the most important factor, in reducing recidivism,” he said.

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