“Ban the Box” bill to delay criminal background questions for applicants

TENNESSEE (WJHL) – Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam recently signed a bill aimed at helping convicted felons get back into the workforce.

The bill is called “Ban the Box” and it would prevent state employers from asking applicants about their criminal history early in the interview process.

“With taking the box away, it gives people like me a chance to get their foot in the door. Maybe get that interview,” said Travis Blevins, a Johnson City Day Reporting Center participant.

The Johnson City Day Reporting Center is a place where a person at risk of re-offending completes a court ordered program.

“I got caught back in 2004, and got my first felony, and that’s been my only felony on my record,” said Blevins.

Blevins told News Channel the Day Reporting Center helped him land a job.

“I’ve had quite a few jobs that actually I’ve been denied from just for the simple fact of having a criminal background…got a tour of the facility I was going to be managing and got down to the point of the application to where I had checked yes on the box and was told I could no longer be an applicant,” said Blevins.

“We tend to look at their past mistakes before we see their skills and qualifications,” said Employment Services Program Manager Stacy Haas who works at the Day Reporting Center.

Haas teaches a three phase program about how to get a job.

“Phase one I basically teach them how to fill out an application correctly, interviewing skills, we do a lot of role play,” said Haas.

Haas said phase two focuses on maintaining employment, and phase 3 is about how to move up.

“They have to work maybe a little bit harder and really present themselves,” said Haas.

The U.S. Department of Justice estimates nearly 75 percent of released prisoners will re-offend within 5 years and 6 in 10 will be re-convicted.

But several government studies indicate that job placement can reduce the rate.

“That’s the biggest misconception, not all of us are going to be repeat offenders,” said Blevins.

But Blevins told News Channel 11, even for those that are repeat offenders, “Ban the Box” could bring hope in the form of employment which in turn can foster change.

The “Ban the Box” bill does not prevent employers from performing backgrounds checks.

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