‘Ban the box’ proposal heads for Indianapolis council

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard is supporting a Democratic city-county councilor's proposal to ban questions on job applications about past criminal convictions.

Councilor Vop Osili, who has pushed since 2012 to “ban the box,” sponsored a proposal that had been set to be introduced to the council Monday. City government, however, was closed Monday because of the winter storm and subzero temperatures, and the council meeting was rescheduled to Jan. 27. Osili's proposal will likely be referred to the council’s Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee.

Ballard spokesman Marc Lotter said the Republican mayor's staff is working with Osili on changes to the language of the proposed ordinance, which he wouldn't specify.

"We support the concept," Lotter said.

Osili couldn’t be reached for comment.

The draft ordinance would govern hiring practices of the city, its vendors and recipients of economic incentives. The last category covers any entity receiving tax-increment revenue, tax abatements, bond proceeds or real estate at a reduced cost, and as the proposal acknowledges, includes numerous companies with “hundreds” of employees.

The affected employers would be prohibited from asking about prior convictions on job applications as well as in first-round interviews, unless the applicant offers the information voluntarily. The local rule would not affect background checks required by state or federal law or the hiring processes established by trade unions.

The proposal makes Ballard’s office responsible for vetting hiring practices of city contractors and incentive recipients. 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.

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