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General Assembly Considering “Ban the Box” Bill

The bill would remove criminal history questions from job applications. (Kathryn Decker/flickr.com)
The bill would remove criminal history questions from job applications. (Kathryn Decker/flickr.com)
March 7, 2016

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - The General Assembly is considering a bill that would remove barriers to employment for people with criminal records.

Most job applications have a little box to check off to indicate that an applicant has a criminal conviction, and that's usually as far as the application goes.

Kennard Ray, member of the steering committee of the Connecticut Fair Chance for All Coalition, says the Fair Chance Employment Act would remove questions about a potential employee's criminal history from job applications.

"Folks who are currently filtered out of the job market would have the ability to showcase their skills, their ability, before being required to submit themselves to a background check," says Ray.

Employers could only ask about criminal history once they've made a conditional job offer. According to Ray, leveling the playing field would help the economy, reduce recidivism and help keep families intact.

The bill is being championed in the Legislature by Senator Edwin Gomes, the 80-year-old co-chair of the Labor Committee who, Ray points out, has had first-hand experience with the issue.

"At 17, he got locked up for stealing a couple of tuna fish sandwiches, and this is something that has stuck with him for years," says Ray. "And he really wants to do as much as he can to move this legislation ahead."

Ray believes the bill has overwhelming public support, and last week more than 70 people lined up to testify in its favor at a public hearing.

"Ban the box" bills have been introduced in several other states, and Ray says where they've passed, the results have been positive.

"Rhode Island and Massachusetts have both passed public and private fair-chance laws and they're doing just fine, so this legislation would bring Connecticut up to speed with its neighbors," says Ray.

New York City also has banned questions about criminal convictions from job applications.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - CT