Current law prohibits the state, counties and municipalities from including a yes/no box about criminal convictions on an initial application for employment. Only after an applicant is selected as a finalist can the public employer ask whether he or she has ever been convicted of a crime.
The proposed bipartisan legislation would extend the prohibition to private employers, too. As one of its sponsors, Rep. Alonzo Baldonado, R-Los Lunas, told the Journal, “The idea is to give someone a fair shake who has truly changed their life and is headed in a better direction.” By delaying inquiry into criminal records, ban-the-box measures provide the reformed offender with the opportunity to make a good first impression, getting past that crucial initial screening.
The online magazine Aeon recently ran an article by an ex-addict named Marc Lewis who got clean in his 20s. He went to college, earned a doctorate in developmental psychology and taught neuroscience at universities in Canada and Europe while conducting important research into the nature of addiction, which he summarized in his piece. A career like that might easily have been derailed at the beginning by a felony drug conviction. Giving recovered addicts and genuinely rehabilitated criminals a second (or sometimes first) chance can only benefit society in the long run, allowing them to become financially self-sufficient while doing things that benefit others, whether advancing scientific knowledge or more humbly by adding to a company’s bottom line.