This Monday, the County Commission will consider the third and final reading of the “Ban the Box” ordinance. “Ban the Box” is an effort by our administration and Commissioner Sawyer, with support from several other groups, to create a new countywide policy that eliminates inquiry into criminal history from most Shelby County Government employment applications.
Though this initiative is new to Shelby County Government, this effort is truly part of a larger nationwide effort at criminal justice reforms.
Right now, at least 150 cities and counties across the United States have banned the box in some form or another, including the City of Memphis.
Nearly everyone who is in prison right now will return to our communities. In Shelby County, nearly 9,000 ex-offenders begin the difficult process to re-entry every year. Unfortunately, those returning are very likely to be arrested again within one year of release. Our recidivism rates here, and around the country, are staggering. Meaningful employment, or lack thereof, is at the root of this vicious cycle.
We will never have public safety unless we work at re-entry and commit to reintegrating ex-offenders back into society. Ex-offenders who find employment are significantly more likely to avoid additional crime, return back to prison, and stay in that vicious cycle. In fact, according to a study done by Safer Foundation, when formerly incarcerated individuals are employed, even for a short amount of time, recidivism rates decrease considerably. As incarceration goes down, the costs to incarcerate also drop. Right now, it costs our county nearly $100 per day to house inmates at our county jail. Policies that prevent inquiry into criminal history from being included on employment applications expand opportunities for ex-offenders, and benefit community. Ban the Box is one of the ways we give individuals who have served their time a fresh start.
For these reasons, I am pleased to report that our Ban the Box ordinance has the support of Just City, Lifeline to Success, the Memphis Urban League, NAACP Collierville, Advance Memphis, Senior Pastor Rufus Smith of Hope Church, HopeWorks, MICAH, President & CEO of Agape Child and Family Services David Jordan, KLAP, Inc., and former District Attorney Bill Gibbons.
We are hopeful that the Commission approves this new ordinance on Monday, without delay. Please tune in here and, if you’re willing, please find a way to let Commissioners know that you support criminal justice reforms, like Ban the Box.
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