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Ban the Box laws may help ex-felons find jobs

Maryland is one of many states that has decided to ban employers from asking prospective employees questions about their criminal history on job applications. Before, many employers may have simply dismissed someone who had been convicted of a felony, even if their qualifications were enough to be considered. Advocates hope the new laws will help the ex-felons get a second chance.

Supporters believe that Ban the Box laws are a simple and cost-effective way to help people who face obstacles to getting their life in order after prison have a chance to get a job based on their qualifications. The laws do not keep employers from asking the question later. They are only meant to make employers give people an opportunity. While the laws normally make exceptions for jobs like law enforcement or in schools, most employers cannot ask about an applicants criminal history, no matter what kind of crime a person may have committed, on a job application.

Advocates believe that the laws help both ex-felons and employers. Employment has been shown to reduce recidivism and help low-income communities. Employers may benefit by getting an employee who works hard because they feel they have something to prove.

For many ex-felons, having the opportunity to explain their crime and how they've become better people since that time is enough to help them overcome their past and get a job. While employers can still conduct background checks and not hire someone based on a criminal history, these new laws give a lot of people a second chance. While many businesses may claim that the laws are time consuming and costly, in part because they may never hire people who have committed certain crimes, the potential benefit almost certainly outweighs these concerns.

Source: MSNBC, "States push to provide some ex-felons a second chance", Suzy Khimm, July 21, 2013

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