Leaders of forty-two foundations have announced that they have "banned the box" by ensuring that questions about criminal convictions do not appear on their job application forms and/or by adopting fair chance hiring policies.
The foundations — members and allies of the Executives' Alliance to Expand Opportunities for Boys and Men of Color — are calling on all philanthropic institutions in the United States to follow suit and eliminate barriers to employment for people with arrest and conviction records. The "Ban the Box" movement, which was launched by formerly incarcerated activists and has spread to twenty-one states over the last decade, is aligned with the Obama administration's My Brother's Keeper initiative's and the Executives' Alliance's focus on eliminating systemic and structural barriers to opportunity for boys and men of color. More than seventy million Americans have arrest or conviction records that can show up in background checks, which reduces the likelihood of a callback interview for an entry-level job by half. Such barriers take a particularly heavy toll on men of color, who are disproportionately affected by mass incarceration.
The members of the Executives' Alliance and their allies have reviewed their hiring policies and practices to ensure that they are in compliance with the civil rights and consumer laws regulating criminal background checks for employment and guidance on the use of criminal records issued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The coalition also has commissioned the National Employment Law Project to develop a Model Fair Chance Hiring Policy and Toolkit for employers in the philanthropic sector.
"It is time to end the pervasive discrimination against people with past criminal records," said Rosenberg Foundation president Timothy P. Silard. "The era of mass incarceration and the war on drugs have done severe damage to families and communities, with an enormously disproportionate impact on people of color. All employers can be leaders in ensuring that a prior conviction does not mean a lifetime of unemployment. Everyone deserves a second chance and the opportunity to compete for a job."
"While the need for criminal justice reform is broadly agreed upon across the country and across political lines, too little is being done on a practical level to provide meaningful opportunities to people who have been incarcerated," said Ford Foundation president Darren Walker. "By establishing a new benchmark for what we are capable of as a society and modifying our own practices, we pursue together a system of justice of which we can be proud."