To Break the Cycle of Incarceration, ‘Ban the Box’

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, more than three out of four released inmates return to prison within five years of release.

With nearly 700,000 individuals released from incarceration each year, that’s a costly return rate.

One study pegged the value these individuals could have contributed to the economy had they not returned to prison at between $57 billion and $65 billion.

The costs of reincarceration are more than financial. The tolls of being in jail are extensive, limiting opportunities for employment, housing and education – all of which negatively affects the ability of individuals, families and communities to dream of what is possible and imagine a fulfilling, productive future.

That’s why we need to support measures that better prepare former inmates to re-enter society.

One way to support redemption for the men, women, families and communities that so desperately need and seek it is to “ban the box.”

Job applicants with criminal records have their chances of a callback reduced by 50 percent if they check the box on applications indicating that record.

Explaining in the Wall Street Journal why Koch Industries ‘banned the box’ in its hiring practices, KII Senior Vice President Mark Holden writes,

Few things are as important for people trying to rejoin society as having a job…. After years behind bars they desperately need a chance to find personal fulfillment and provide for themselves and their families. But a combination of government restrictions and business hiring processes too often leave them with few, if any, opportunities for gainful employment.

The results are as predictable as they are disheartening. When people with criminal records struggle to find work, they become much more likely to re-offend. The lack of employment is one of the key reasons why over two-thirds are re-arrested, over half are re-convicted, and two out of five are re-incarcerated within three years of release.

Facebook, Target and Home Depot have also banned the box in recent years.

This practice makes good business sense, expanding the talent pool for companies to find the best prospects that can add value to their workforce.

It’s also good for America. Breaking the cycle of incarceration reduces the tremendous cost recidivism has on families and society.

“Hundreds of thousands of people with criminal records try to rejoin society every year, and they want to contribute to their communities and improve their lives,” Holden writes. “We can help them by breaking down barriers that stand in their way.”

That includes barriers to employment. It’s time to ban the box.

Learn more about how KII and other companies banned the box by reading the original article published in the Wall Street Journal.