The NC Legislature gets one right

Amazing, I know.  Might as well give credit where it’s due, in this case on “ban the box”:

— A bill that would help people with criminal records get jobs in state government passed the House Tuesday afternoon with surprising levels of bipartisan support.

House Bill 409 would direct most state agencies to “ban the box” on job applications – that is, to move a question about criminal history from the initial stages of a job application to later in the interview process, when an applicant would be able to explain his or her criminal record and why it should or should not matter to consideration for state employment.

Legislative Democrats have filed “Ban the Box” bills most every session since 2011, but they’ve never gained much traction with the Republican leadership. However, House Bill 409 sailed through the House with a 98-14 vote, including all Democrats and the majority of Republicans as well.

The proposal would not apply to jobs with direct interaction with children or the elderly, law enforcement or public safety jobs or any other positions that by law require a criminal history inquiry as a preliminary qualification.

Bill sponsor Rep. Rena Turner, R-Iredell, said the bill also directs state recruitment officers to consider the gravity of the crime, the amount of time passed since it happened, any rehabilitation work and whether the crime committed had anything to do with the job the person is seeking.

Turner is a longtime clerk of court in Iredell County. She said her experience led her to support the measure, which she believes will reduce criminal recidivism.

“Occasionally, there’s somebody who really understands that they messed up,” Turner said. “Maybe it’s been 20 years ago. Maybe it’s been 30 years ago.

“If we keep stuffing them down and never taking their applications,” she asked, “how can we expect them to do any better?

“I think they need a chance,” she said.

I do love that “occasionally.”  Just a reminder that the vast majority of criminals are bad, irredeemable people.  At least we’ll give the “occasional” good one a chance.

Of course, in all seriousness, it is great to see some real bipartisanship on common-sense criminal justice reforms.  There’s so much low-hanging fruit we can improve if Republicans just open their eyes.  Good to see that, at least on some issues, they are.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

4 Responses to The NC Legislature gets one right

  1. Jason says:

    This seems like a great initiative, but it may have some downsides, according to this study mentioned in the New York Times (which I had saved to use for my Race/Class?Gender course): I’m not sure if there is more recent research on this and whether the positive effects outweigh the pernicious racism in hiring practices.

    • Steve Greene says:

      Yeah, I remember reading that. One could hope that the effect is fairly limited. “The researchers sent fictitious job applications to employers before and after the regulations took effect, focusing on jobs for “candidates with limited work experience, no postsecondary education and no specialized skills.”
      Maybe, allowing this to be asked about after the initial interview, as in the proposed NC law, could mitigate these unintended consequences. Also, maybe, the more this is universal, the less the effects of racism?

  2. Nicole K. says:

    So they got this one right. Is there any chance that NC is going to follow NY’s lead and end being the only state that automatically treats all 16 and 17 year old criminal defendants as adults? You’d think our state would consider doing something about that since every other state has figured out how stupid that policy is.

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