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New law gives ex-felons better chance at a job, but some say it doesn’t go far enough

File photo by Kathryn Decker via Flickr Creative Commons

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This week a new law, AB 218 went into effect in the state of California that “bans the box” on all public job applications asking whether or not a job applicant has been convicted of a crime. This prohibits a state or local agency from asking an applicant to disclose information regarding a criminal conviction, except as specified, until the agency has determined the applicant meets the minimum employment qualifications for the position.

But advocates for ex-felons and inmates trying to reenter society, say the new law doesn’t go far enough. They say gainful employment is the best defense against those with a criminal past, returning to crime. They want Los Angeles to adopt a measure similar to the one San Francisco will begin enforcing this August -- it “bans the box” on city-contracted businesses and even private businesses with 20 or more employees and applies to housing applications, too.

Should Los Angeles ban the box on all business and residential applications? Do ex-felons deserve every shot they can get at a job? Do employers and landlords have a right to know whether their future employee or tenant has a criminal history?


Councilman Curren Price, who has a motion to research the impact of expanding the Ban the Box law in Los Angeles

Tim Lynch, Director of Cato’s Project on Criminal Justice

Susan Burton, one of the founding members of All of Us or None, a national initiative started by formerly incarcerated people to fight against discrimination faced after release; she’s also Executive Director of A New Way of Life Reentry Project, which provides housing and support services to formerly incarcerated women in South Central LA.