The law exists for a reason, prisons exist for a reason and that little box on job applications that convicted criminals must check exists for a reason. Individuals who commit such offenses should be held accountable; permanently. It doesn’t matter if their motives were unintentional, if they were minors at the time or if someone seemingly forced them into such behavior. The bottom line is once you’re a convicted felon, that’s one strike that shouldn’t be removed from your record.
The Michigan Legislature should reject the January proposal by the Fair Chance Coalition — a group advocating for the rights of convicted felons — to “ban the box.” Approving this legislation would eliminate any criminal history information from appearing on job applications, meaning employers would be “blind” to an individual’s criminal past. Doing this would send a completely ridiculous message that any and all crimes will essentially be overlooked in the hiring process. Imagine the societal impact that can result from crimes going unpunished in the long run. It won’t be pretty.
Americans all have the same civic duties and responsibilities, and we must all follow the same stringent rules and regulations as established by our national government. When an individual breaks these rules and is convicted of a crime, they must face the consequences — no matter what. One of those consequences is facing disadvantages in the workforce. Passing this legislation would essentially grant convicted felons the same opportunities and privileges as those who abide by the law.
Imagine for a moment that you’re an employer. You’re rifling through piles of job applications. Wouldn’t you want to know if someone you’re considering hiring has robbed a bank or committed credit card fraud in the past? I certainly would. What if you had to choose between two individuals with equally impressive skills and experience for a position? Yet one of them could have committed murder five years ago. Withholding information about criminal history on job applications means there is a 50/50 chance you end up hiring the murderer. They’ll be a great asset to your company.
It’s commendable that convicted felons are taking great steps to turn their lives around. Seeking employment opportunities is exactly what they should be doing, but employers deserve to know everything about their potential employees, especially their criminal history. Crimes need to be reported on an individual’s record because they aren’t something to be ignored.
I realize that mistakes do happen, and sometimes criminals are truly remorseful for crimes they’ve previously committed. Steps should be taken to improve the criminal history section of an application instead of removing it all together. Convicted felons should have a fair chance to explain themselves and their history in greater detail. Perhaps providing more information on the individual’s rehabilitation or recovery stages and an update on their current standing with the law would help employers better assess these individuals. Employers need more information than just a simple answer when evaluating convicted felons as potential employees. But convicted felons shouldn’t be allowed to simply erase their past.
There are no excuses for breaking the law, and convicted felons need to understand and accept the consequences of doing so. These individuals can’t expect their wrongdoings to just disappear. It’s not practical and it’s not fair to those citizens who take their civic responsibilities and morals more seriously. Improvements can be made to allow these lawbreakers a better shot at securing a job, but one thing is certain: the box must stay.
Caroline Syms is an LSA sophomore.