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Why North Carolina needs to Ban the Box

Most North Carolina residents can likely think back to a time when they made a poor decision or did something that they later regretted. Making mistakes is part of being human and it's from these mistakes that we grow and learn to make different and better choices. In cases where a mistake or unfortunate circumstance results in criminal charges and a criminal conviction, the resulting punishments can be particularly harsh.

We've previously discussed the many penalties associated with criminal drug and drunk driving convictions including time behind bars, fines and probation. However, many people fail to understand the significant and long-term consequences that can result from these types of misdemeanor and felony convictions. For example, a criminal conviction can make it extremely difficult to get a job.

In North Carolina, an estimated 1.6 million residents have some sort of criminal record. While some misdemeanor and felony convictions can be expunged, there are many restrictions to the process and numerous convictions that cannot be expunged. Consequently, when applying for jobs, an individual's criminal record becomes a sort of scarlet letter.

Unable to find work, individuals with criminal records often face many personal and financial hardships which make it difficult to get ahead and make positive life changes. In an effort to prevent these individuals from being locked in an "economic cage," some state politicians like Sen. Jeff Jackson recently voiced their support for House Bill 612.

The bill, which recently failed to crossover into the Senate, would effectively "Ban the Box," barring employers from including questions about an applicant's criminal record on job applications. While the bill failed to gain support from House Republicans, proponents of Ban the Box contend they will continue to fight for the rights of state residents who have criminal records to help ensure they are not indefinitely punished.

Source: WRAL.com, "'Second Chance' laws sought," Laura Leslie, May 6 

The News & Observer, "N.C. alliance seeks relief for ex-cons," Taylor Knopf, May 5, 2015

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