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Is it time for Pulaski County to "Ban the Box?"

While most people might not realize it, there has been a concerted effort by states across the nation to help those with criminal pasts secure employment since the recent recession. Specifically, 22 states now have policies in place calling for public and private employers to "ban the box."  

For those unfamiliar with the notion of banning the box, it calls for the removal of the checkbox asking people if they've ever been convicted of a crime from job application forms. The theory is that it will enable those who have paid their debt to society to be more competitive in the hiring process, meaning they won't be automatically rejected just for checking the box.

While there is no Ban the Box law on the books in Arkansas, there has actually been considerable movement at the local level. Indeed, justices of the peace here in Pulaski County voted 11-0 to advance a ban the box ordinance earlier this week.

The ordinance, sponsored by Justice of the Peace Lillie McMullen (D-Little Rock), calls for removal of the criminal history checkbox from employment applications for positions in all county departments -- with the exception of the juvenile detention center, sheriff's office, youth services and any other department with access to county funds.

It's important to note that the removal of the criminal history checkbox would not mean that the matter would go entirely ignored. Indeed, the hiring manager would still conduct criminal background checks on those candidates to whom offers of conditional employment are made.

The Ban the Box ordinance is currently on the agenda for the full Quorum Court meeting scheduled for April 26. While the rules say it will require three readings at three different meetings before it could be passed by the justices, they also dictate that the vote can be expedited by having the ordinance read more than once at a single meeting.

Stay tuned for updates …

What are your thoughts on the ordinance? Do you think it's necessary to help those who have made a past mistake be given a fair chance?

If you've been charged with any sort of felony or misdemeanor, please consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible as the stakes are too high to simply ignore the matter. 

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