10-Point Expert: President Obama’s “Ban the Box” Executive Order

Ban the Box

How President Barack Obama wants to make it easier for those formally incarcerated to get work after their sentences.



Over the past decade there has been a greater emphasis on prison rehabilitation in the US. Part of that has been tackling the difficulty of former inmates finding work after they’ve been released. Yesterday President Barack Obama addressed the issue head-on by introducing the “ban the box” executive order for federal agencies. What exactly is the “ban the box” initiative? Here’s our 10-Point Expert to explain the details.



Point 1: “Ban the box” (or also called “fair-chance hiring”) refers to an initiative that prevents employers from asking job applicants about their criminal record until later in the hiring process.


Point 2: For most ex-offenders, finding a job after being incarcerated is one of the toughest steps to full rehabilitation. According to the Bureau of Justice statistics, around half of those who couldn’t secure employment during their supervised release were sent back to prison for a new crime and/or violating their terms of release. However 93% of those that had gained employment were able to reintegrate themselves back into society!


Point 3: Yesterday President Obama gave a speech saying his administration would implement “ban the box” initiatives – through an executive order – in the federal hiring process early next year.


Point 4: Many states and local municipalities in the US have already embraced these “ban the box” policies. Since of this writing, 19 states and over 100 cities have implemented “ban the box” policies to businesses in those respective regions. They include states like Illinois, California, Georgia, New York, and others. As seen in the map below.


NELP Ban the Box States


Point 5: While this would be the first time the federal government has embraced “ban the box” initiatives on a more concrete level, many federal agencies in the past have followed similar procedures in their hiring processes. The Obama administration is just making that process more official.


Point 6: While President Obama’s executive order is wide reaching, implementation of the “ban the box” policy only extends to government agencies. As for government contractors, these organizations don’t have to adhere to the new policies, which sadly is problematic considering most of those jobs tend to be ones that ex-offenders are more than qualified for.


Point 7: It’s important to remember that civil rights laws don’t protect ex-offenders from employment discrimination. Also multiple studies have shown that employers are less likely to hire ex-offenders due to the stigma attached of having run-ins with the criminal justice system.


Point 8: The point of “ban the box” initiatives is to establish a personal link between employers and applicants that are ex-offenders before they check their criminal backgrounds. That way these individuals won’t be immediately dismissed due to past transgressions and more likely accepted during the hiring process.


Point 9: The most often cited evidence that proponents of “ban the box” initiatives champion is the policy changes made in Durham, North Carolina. Back in 2012, the city of Durham implemented “ban the box” policies in their city hiring practices. As a result in 2014, 15% of city employees had criminal records, which is seven times more than it was in 2011!


Point 10: Truthfully, President Obama’s executive order is more symbolic in nature than anything else, but advocates of “ban the box” say the move could open more doors to local municipalities and private organizations hiring more ex-offenders, thus putting less strain on the criminal justice system.



(Photo Credits: Wikipedia, NELP.org)


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