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A Second Chance for Former MN Inmates Looking for Work

PHOTO: Minnesota's new "Ban the Box" law takes effect Wednesday, preventing employers from asking about an applicants criminal history on an initial application or contact. Photo credit: Miss Millions
PHOTO: Minnesota's new "Ban the Box" law takes effect Wednesday, preventing employers from asking about an applicants criminal history on an initial application or contact. Photo credit: Miss Millions
December 31, 2013

ST. PAUL, Minn. - One of the keys to keeping former prison inmates from returning to jail is gainful employment, and a new Minnesota law aims to help them at least have a better chance of finding work. The "Ban the Box" law, which takes effect Jan. 1, means employers can no longer ask about criminal history on an initial job application, said the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, Kevin Lindsey.

"What we're finding is that people leaving prison are having a difficult time even getting their foot in the door to have an opportunity to be hired," he said. "So 'Ban the Box' provides an opportunity for those individuals to meet face-to-face with an employer, to present their best case to being hired."

The law does include an exception for employers where a criminal history background check is generally a required condition of employment, such as schools, health-care facilities and banks.

With the continued aging of the work force in Minnesota and the nation leading to a shrinking labor pool, Lindsey said it's also a vital economic move to open doors for the 92 million Americans with arrest or criminal records. He pointed out that the vast majority of the offenses in these cases were non-violent.

"And when we're talking about a number as large as 92 million, given the number of people in the United States, that's a significant impact, economically, to our viability," the Commissioner pointed out. "So, for those individuals who have committed a nonviolent crime, it's critically important that we provide them with a means and an opportunity to at least get in front of an employer to have their merits considered."

With the implementation of "Ban the Box," Minnesota joins just a handful of other states across the country with similar laws, along with a number of cities.

"Ban the Box" details are at bit.ly/1lu1tqj.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN