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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Do Felons Deserve Second Chance?

I know a woman who was madly in love with her boyfriend and was out for a ride with him one day when they were pulled over by the New Jersey State Police.He had hidden a gun in the car, and when police asked him about it, he said it belonged to his girlfriend. Like an idiot, she took the fall for him and was charged with felony possession of a firearm without the required license to carry. The guy is long since gone, but her felony conviction has followed her since that day, and as a result, she's never been able to get a decent job.

I know a guy who, due to some deep irresistible impulse in his earlier years, was a chronic shoplifter. He never stole more than $10-20 worth of merchandise. But after so many offenses, this becomes a felony. After so many offenses, you go to jail. And he did. Like his sister, he has never been able to hold a decent job.

Is this fair?

Bethlehem mayor Bob Donchez, himself the son of a police detective, wants to give a second chance to people who made a mistake in their past. Starting on March 14, the only applicants who will be asked about criminal records in their initial application will be prospective police officers, firefighters, paramedics and 911 workers.

Fore remaining employees, criminal background checks will only be performed on finalists. Those with records will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis based on the following factors:
· The nature of the offense and how it relates to the requirements and duties of the position applied for.
· The time elapsed since the offense.
· The age of the applicant at the time of the offense.
· The facts surrounding the offense.
Allentown was the first Lehigh Valley municipality to adopt this policy, which is referred to as "Ban the Box."

Mayor Donchez argues that, "By eliminating the requirement that one disclose a criminal conviction on the initial application, we can now attract the broadest group of applicants for each vacant position.”

Thanks in large part to mandatory minimum sentences, the United States has the largest prison population in the world. In addition, as of 2013, one in every 35 people was under some form of probation or parole. According to Bethlehem NAACP President Esther Lee, her group has been lobbying for some form of "ban the box" since John Callahan was Mayor.

"Finally!" she declared.

Nationwide, over 100 cities and counties and 21 states have one form or another of  "ban the box." Governor Wolf has also recently signed legislation that will enable an ex-offender with a second or third degree misdemeanor conviction to get his record expunged if he has stayed out of trouble for ten years.

38 comments:

Anonymous said...

No! So this dumb woman says the gun is hers and that is a little mistake? What the Hell was she thinking.

Too many excuses for people who are criminals.
Enough already. If you do the crime, you do the time.

Anonymous said...

yes this should be done. prison was supposed to be rehabilitatiin. you do your time it is should ne over at some point. prior to computers it was.

Anonymous said...

This will only lead to more felonies being committed. We live in a society where people are not held responsible for their failings. Then, we wring our hands when wrongdoing is repeated. He penalty should have been harsher.

Anonymous said...

Ten years to try to stay out of trouble is a very long time. Let's give people a second chance. It's true about jobs. Why, there aren't even enough jobs for
non-felons!

Anonymous said...

Never convicted of a crime in my life. When can I get a City Job? There is good reason why Pawlowski administrstion was banning the box. But then again, one could be on probation for drug dealing and get hired by a security company.

Anonymous said...

Ban the box is rediculous. Checking that you are a convict is a part of owning your past. It also gives a competative advantage to those who made the right decisions. This ban the box nonsense is brought to us by those who buy votes with with my money and give out trophies to all participants in the name of fairness. This idea that the playing field must be artificially leveled is insane.

Way to go Bob. You are turning on the mediocre magnet for city jobs. Good luck down the road trying to engage in municipal services with employees that walk with a prison yard strut. After all, resource and process predators need legitimate jobs as a condition of their probation/parole.

Ray Nemeth Sr said...

There is provision both in federal law and state law, to have ones civil rights restored after a time of good behavior, but it has not been allowed for years, they say the program, which exist now, has not been funded. To forbid employers from asking these questions is ridiculous, do you really want to hire someone who has had several instances of theft to operate your cash register or given access to valuable equipment.

Anonymous said...


I'm 49 years old and I don't 'know' anybody that's a convicted felon let alone anybody whose ever been in jail....period! In this posting you know of at least two! Once a felon always a felon. The crimes people commit speak to their character and their judgment and their integrity. I sure as heck wouldn't want somebody working for me who claimed a gun was theirs and lied to the police nor do I want a serial shoplifter stealing things from my business or workplace....or myself! Let these lowlife criminals get a entry-level manual labor job somewhere instead of taking good jobs from decent law-abiding citizens.

Anonymous said...

Just think, a police officer arrests someone and that someone goes to jail. Years later that convict is working a clerical job with the city and has access to the Police Officers info. Empowering convicts to impact the lives of good people is bad policy. Ban the box will come back to haunt us in ways that we can never fully quantify. I understand that convicts need work too. But there has to be a balance that includes convicts not occupying jobs where a level of trust is exerted. This type of pandering is what puts us into the jackpot as a society. The box is a valid entry barrier and necessary to weed out those who don't know the difference between right and wrong.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I know far more than two convicted felons. Some of the best people i know are convicted felons. You'd be surprised how easy it is to become a convicted felon. They are humans just like you and me, and for the most part, have the same integrity as any one of us. Some of the worst people I know have never had a parking ticket. I like the idea of not automatically excluding a convicted felon from employment, but doing a balancing act to see if there is a reason to give a person a second chance. I do think that if ot comes down to a person with a record v. a person with none, the person with no record should be tapped.

"Have no fear of robbers or murderers. They are external dangers, petty dangers. We should fear ourselves. Prejudices are the real robbers; vices the real murderers." - Victor Hugo

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Just think, a police officer arrests someone and that someone goes to jail. Years later that convict is working a clerical job with the city and has access to the Police Officers info."

That's certainly a factor to consider in deciding whether to hire someone. But let's say the offense was committed out of state and many years ago. I'd say that person deserves a second chance. "If the soul is left in darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but the one who causes the darkness." - Victor Hugo

I keep quoting from my favorite book, Les Miserables.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"There is provision both in federal law and state law, to have ones civil rights restored after a time of good behavior, but it has not been allowed for years, they say the program, which exist now, has not been funded. To forbid employers from asking these questions is ridiculous, do you really want to hire someone who has had several instances of theft to operate your cash register or given access to valuable equipment."

The only provision in place is expungement, which is not even available in many cases until the offender turns 70.

Note that this change is only for city employment, and has no application to the private sector. i also doubt that the City would hire someone with multiple theft convictions to handle cash. This is about giving a second chance to those who deserve them.

Anonymous said...

Maybe employers should only be able to go back 5 years on someones backround. If you completed the terms of your probation or parole, you shouldn't continue to be punished years down the road. Everyone is paying for this with exploding welfare rolls and progams. So..its in everones intetest to come up with a solution. They also dont hire people with bad credit.

Bernie O'Hare said...

You're right. I find that even more offensive than the criminal record.

Anonymous said...

Once again, government is being used as some sort of social experiment instead of a place to efficiently operate the necessary functions of government.

Have we suddenly come up short of qualified applicants for government jobs that we need to dip into the felon pool of applicants? Any employer - government included - should have all the info available on an applicant UP FRONT. Not doing so just wastes time, which translates into money - our money in the government's case. There will also surely be an incident where one of these employees does something wrong and the liability will be greater because the government knowingly hired someone with a record. And that additional liability will also be paid with our money as well.

We all know Pawlowski had to "ban the box" in Allentown so he'd have a place to return when he gets out of prison, but is there something that the Mayor of Bethlehem is worried about too?

While I obviously think that "ban the box" is a horrible idea, I do support the recent state legislation allowing certain misdemeanors to be expunged (after time and proper review).

Anonymous said...

Continuing to punish someone who has repaid his debt to society is absurd. You're probably the type who tells a homeless panhandler to get a job. The ban the box isn't about getting convicted politicians back to work but someone who wants to work with a record. Employers go back 3 years on a dmv record, why not on a criminal record?

Anonymous said...

Every new law creates a new class of criminals. We elect lawyers. They pass new law after new law and create more work for .... wait for it .... lawyers. Just as elected teachers protect the best interests of teachers, elected lawyers protect the interests of lawyers. There are too many lawyers who are feeding on the rest of us and concocting more ways to bring more people into a system that requires paying lawyers.

Anonymous said...

Well, I think a career criminal with a 5 page rap sheet shouldn't be treated the same as someone who made a mistake and wants to return to work. I am a skilled technician and cannot find work because of charges i received in 2012. No prior criminal history yet no one will give me a chance. I paid my debt with jail time and completed outpatient programs to satisfy the court order. Why can an employer continue to punish me?

Anonymous said...

Over and above the problems with ban the box that others have mentioned above, there are other issues involved.

1) Realistically, employers receive many applications for every "good" position filled, and candidates are often eliminated for trivial reasons - you simply can't interview 50 candidates for every open position. By holding this information back for "finalists" only, you're wasting a lot of interview time since the likely result of a conviction is going to be choosing another finalist 99% of the time.
2) From an financial standpoint, a company is taking on a big risk in hiring a convicted criminal. Any offense related to theft certainly makes it more likely that further theft will occur (unfortunate, but true).
3) Finally, from a legal/insurance side of things the company takes on a HUGE risk by hiring anyone with a criminal record. For example, take a chance and hire someone with a minor assault record on in your office who assaults another employer, and you are likely to be sued.

While ban the box isn't being forced on the private sector right now, the same issues mentioned above will impact the government entities involved, incurring costs all of us will have to bear. In addition, the introduction of these policies is also the first step in pressuring private employer to do the same. This has happened in several areas throughout the country.

Ban the box is a "feel good" initiative with high costs, for all the reasons I've mentioned above, that doesn't really deliver results.

Anonymous said...

I don't have a problem with ban the box. I assume anyone employed by the government is probably dishonest, having committed a crime or preparing to commit a crime.

Anonymous said...

Yes. Absolutely.

Anonymous said...

I have no problems with the "ban the box" initiative. I think government much like a private business has to perform background checks and use judgement.

It's not really about second chances but about giving convicts the opportunity to stay out of jail. For many convicts, they get released and can't find any work at all and just go back to committing crimes so they can make money or in some cases, get a roof over their head and three squares.





Bernie O'Hare said...

"I don't have a problem with ban the box. I assume anyone employed by the government is probably dishonest, having committed a crime or preparing to commit a crime. "

Gotta' admit, this is funny.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of the inflamed hemrode boilZ headZ, ie palumpa for short¿!)$ AllentownZ arena agenda soul sale sector of coconsperitorZ Church on The Run have ties to just this sort of propoganda prophetsiZed¿!)$ There circus sideshow have highly CONtributed to this bafoons allready over inflate ego about to be deflated, The Game, Caining of the BoilZ will be becomeing a National past time as the nation slipps like the flipp flopps perpatrated by these designing people¿!)$
redd for Republican
patent pending

Anonymous said...

I assume a work history is still included on an application. Company c 1990-1999' Company b 1999 -2007 etc. This will also be over looked .

Anonymous said...

Envision the industry that ban the box will breed. The lawsuits brought against the taxpayers will be never-ending by every felon that can find a lawyer on a contingency.

Anonymous said...

Big Brother knows who's been bad or good, for goodness sake ...

http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2016-03-08/the-crime-you-have-not-yet-committed

Anonymous said...

Not every convict has an influential PAC to run after their release or stunning Mediterranean features and a carefully sculpted bronze body they need help staying out.

Anonymous said...

As someone who was the victim of a criminal act, and the perp is sitting in prison with a shorter sentence than he was eligible for, I'd like to see his crime follow him for the rest of his life.

However, I realize my feelings are mostly due to the fact he received 2/3 the sentence I would have preferred - but that was the judge's decision. I guess I am middle of the road on this question, and almost leaning towards "banning the box."

Bernie O'Hare said...

Well, you must be a tolerant person! I can understand crime victims wanting to take a hard line.

Anonymous said...

I haven't been accused often of being "tolerant." I am not decided on the question, and neither solution is perfect. I am open to discussion on the matter though - which is a change from my more typical black and white views.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the Victor Hugo quote.

Dreaming of Justice said...

Working in Baltimore for decades, been mugged two times. Physically injured one of those times, which was right before Christmas. Personally, I'd have liked to see the guy get his ass kicked, placed in a detox center and finally vocational rehab with counseling for the next five years.
I think that would work on maybe 10% of the dummies that bust people upside the head for money. The rest are hardcore, don't give a damn and will continue to mug, beat, and maybe kill working people who cross paths with them.

White collar and non-violent offenders I am willing to deal with.

Anonymous said...

9:28 AM Some of the best people i know are convicted felons. You'd be surprised how easy it is to become a convicted felon. ??? really now ? No Sir, we would not be surprised. It takes some effort to become a convicted felon.

Bernie O'Hare said...

You're saying you're not surprised at how easy it would be to become a convicted felon and then saying it takes some effort. I cannot respond to a comment in which you make two mutually exclusive arguments.

Anonymous said...

Bethlehem already hires non-residents who could care less about the City. Now Bethlehem is going to hire felons who could care less about the City. Nice, very nice.

Bernie O'Hare said...

It's "couldn't care less".

Anonymous said...

Bernie,
Maybe 12:01 am should talk to mark vitalias about the white collor criminals of the local design in th triboro, ie spinkter¿!)$ This too by design of the jailhouse mentality from top to bottom, my explination is complicated to comprehend to say the least¿!)$
redd for regestered Republican
patent pending