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Cummings, Collins, Booker, Johnson Introduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation to “Ban the Box”

Feb 7, 2019
Press Release

Washington, DC (Feb. 7, 2019)—Today, Reps. Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), the Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, Doug Collins (R-GA), the Ranking Member of the House Committee on the Judiciary, and Senators Cory Booker (NJ-D) and Ron Johnson (WI-R) introduced the Fair Chance Act, bipartisan, bicameral legislation to give formerly incarcerated individuals a fairer chance at finding a job by prohibiting the federal government and federal contractors from asking about the criminal history of a job applicant prior to a conditional offer of employment.

Throughout the country, cities and states have implemented fair chance polices to remove a  significant barrier to employment for people with criminal records by having to “check the box” about a past criminal conviction on a job application.  Thirty-three states and over 150 cities and counties have taken action, giving formerly incarcerated people a fairer chance to secure employment.

“I am proud to sponsor this bipartisan and bicameral legislation to expand ‘ban-the-box’ policies to the federal government,” Chairman Cummings said. “These policies are commonsense criminal justice reforms that have shown potential for reducing recidivism and breaking cycles of crime in many states, including Maryland.  This bill would give individuals who are reentering society from prison a fair chance at truly achieving the American dream and becoming contributing members of our communities.”

“The Fair Chance Act helps rehabilitated men and women gain meaningful employment. As we build on the reforms of the First Step Act, we know that jobs are a key factor in lowering recidivism rates, and this bill removes an unnecessary barrier to those jobs,” said Ranking Member Collins.

“We have a criminal justice system where the collateral consequences for Americans with a criminal conviction are like getting a life sentence—affecting their ability to vote, to get housing and critically, to get back to work,” said Senator Booker.  “This bipartisan bill will break down the barriers that prevent people who have paid their debt to society from getting a job, so that we can better advance our goals of justice, rehabilitation and redemption for all.”

“Working with the Joseph Project has shown me that the dignity of work is one of the best ways to keep someone from turning back to a life of crime,” said Senator Johnson.  “Getting people back to work improves the safety of our communities, strengthens families, and reduces government dependence – goals that all Americans share.  If someone getting out of prison wants to work and be a productive member of society, we should do everything possible to facilitate that. The Fair Chance Act is an important step in that direction.”

The Fair Chance Act would:

  • Prevent the federal government—including the executive, legislative, and judicial branches—from requesting criminal history information from applicants until they reach the conditional offer stage;
  • Prohibit federal contractors from requesting criminal history information from candidates for positions within the scope of federal contracts until the conditional offer stage;
  • Include important exceptions for positions related to law enforcement and national security duties, positions requiring access to classified information, and positions for which access to criminal history information before the conditional offer stage is required by law; and
  • Require the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in coordination with the U.S. Census Bureau, to issue a report on the employment statistics of formerly incarcerated individuals.

More than 70 million Americans who have criminal histories face the daunting task of securing employment.  They face improbable odds in finding a job as a result of arrests or criminal convictions.  Studies show that a criminal record reduces the likelihood of a callback or job offer by nearly 50 percent for men in general.  African-American men with criminal records have been 60 percent less likely to receive a callback or job offer than those without records.  For individuals trying to turn the page on a difficult chapter in their lives, criminal convictions pose a substantial barrier to employment.

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116th Congress