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.Allentown was the first Lehigh Valley municipality to adopt this policy, which is referred to as "Ban the Box."
· The time elapsed since the offense.
· The age of the applicant at the time of the offense.
· The facts surrounding the offense.
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.