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Detroit Congressman wants to make "ban the box" federal law

Detroit Congressman Hansen Clarke has introduced a bill that supporters say would make it easier for ex-felons to get jobs.

The bill would prohibit employers from asking about a job applicants’ criminal record until they’ve made that person a conditional job offer.

So-called “ban the box” ordinances are already on the books in Detroit, other cities and a few states.

“The box” in question is the place on a job application where applicants are asked to check whether or not they have a criminal history.

Clarke says getting rid of that would give ex-offenders a chance to at least “get their foot in the door” with employers, and have a real shot of becoming members of the work force.

“The employer will be able to do a background check once they’re ready to offer that person a job. And they can weigh whether the criminal history whether the criminal history outweighs the qualifications.”]

Clarke says this would help reduce crime and unemployment. certain employers, like schools, would be exempt.

“Ban the box” advocates say post-prison employment is a particular concern in places like Detroit, but it’s also a national issue that deserves federal attention.

Teferi Brent helps ex-offenders find jobs and job skills in Detroit. He says that question about criminal history is a real structural and psychological barrier for many job-seekers.

“This kind of policy, it breaks down some of those barriers, to helping people who we want to just be regular citizens, become regular citizens.”

Brent and others also rallied to support Clarke, who’s seeking re-election in a competitive district.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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