Indianapolis city leaders pass measure to help ex-offenders find employment

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The Indianapolis City County Council passed the Ban the Box proposal with an overwhelming majority. City leaders claim it will give ex-offenders a real opportunity to become employed which would in turn save taxpayer money and make the city safer.

“This gives them a chance to reprove themselves,” said Dr. Willie Jenkins, Re- Entry Administrator in the Office of Mayor Ballard.

In 90 days, ex-offenders will not have to check that box on the traditional job application that confirms that they have a criminal record if the hiring company is a city contractor or vendor.

They can also keep their prior convictions to themselves during a first round interview.

“They look at the fact that he is an ex-offender, not even thinking about the qualifications that they have for the position that they’re looking for,” said Dr. Jenkins.

The goal is to reduce the recidivism rate. About 51 percent of ex-offenders in Marion County end up back behind bars. The Marion County Sheriff’s Office confirms an inmate costs an average of $82 a day.

“Even if you have been convicted of a felony, and we think you’re a good candidate for the job, we want to be able to asses the situation ourselves. We want to determine what was your felony, how long ago was it, does it apply to the specific job that you’re applying for, and would it impact you in that way,” said Sarah Holsapple, Citizens Energy Group spokesperson.
Citizens Energy Group removed the box from its applications more than two months ago.Holsapple called it overkill and unneccessary since they will perform a background check later in the hiring process anyways.

“We don’t want people to see us as a company that discriminates on any level,” she said.

“It’s really helping the community itself. Plus, it’s making it safer,” said Dr. Jenkins.

City leaders are hopeful other companies will follow their lead. More than 50 other cities across the country have passed a similar measure along with a handful of states.

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