October 25, 2012

Forced Disclosure of Criminal Background: A Novel Explanation for Rhode Island's High Unemployment Rate

Monique Chartier

... proffered in today's Providence Journal by the challenger in the House District Four race.

Asked about his own solutions, [Mark] Binder linked Rhode Island’s high unemployment, in part, to the large number of people who can’t get work because they are required to disclose their criminal histories on job applications. Binder told his audience at Laurelmead that he heard this story often in talking to unemployed people in the Camp Street area of Providence and believes the state should make it “so these guys don’t have to check that box” on an employment application.

It could only be good for the government reform effort in the state to have a Democrat Speaker toppled. In this case, that would involve a victory by Mark Binder. That does not, however, obviate the necessity to ask the almost painfully obvious question here: how does Mr. Binder's theory explain the situation of the vast majority of the unemployed in the state who, you know, lack a criminal background?

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The progressive "ban the box" movement is intellectually and philosophically bankrupt. Past behavior, including criminal behavior, is a valid indicator of potential future behavior and more general characteristics, such as character, directly linked to employability. It is highly relevant and appropriate information for employers to consider, just like employers consider past academic or employment information. If progressives had their way, employers would have to make decisions blind and take huge gambles on applicants at personal risk and expense with relevant information denied to them. For what purpose? Because they "feel bad" for those with criminal convictions. Expungement already exists for the cases that fall in the gray zone of one-time mistakes and misunderstandings. Applicants are also free to explain mitigating circumstances to the employer: write "will discuss." Many, many employers are willing to consider those with criminal convictions. If an applicant murdered another person, there is no principled reason why employers should be banned from asking about it.

Posted by: Dan at October 25, 2012 9:31 AM

I give Mr. Binder credit for giving Fox a run for his money but he's way off here. Most marijuana convictions are not first time offenders. The judges in this state practically decriminalized marijuana in this state long before the GA by piling one year filings on top of each other so if you have a conviction (filings not being a convction), you're probably just a multiple offender and loser. If you have a one year filing, all you need to do is go to court and have it expunged after a year. In the case of a misdemeanor conviction, you have to wait five years. My guess is if your too lazy or uneducated enough to know that then your job prospects are probably slim anyway.

Posted by: Max D. at October 25, 2012 9:39 AM

The district that vomits forth Mr.Fox will always produce "progressives"-but a progressive with no seniority is better than one who's got a lot of it or who holds a position of real power.
Progressives suck.

Posted by: joe bernstein at October 25, 2012 9:59 AM

Let's face some facts. In the case of most "first offenders" it really means that it is the "first offense" they were caught at.

A friend with rental property in Manchester, NH has had such bad experience that he claims his rental ads now include "bring your police record". I cannot swear to the truth of that. Since RI criminal records are on-line, I do know property owners who run names through that.

I suppose an opportunity to explain is worth something. I, myself, have been taken away in handcuffs and chains for both an alleged failure to return a video tape and not having smoke detectors tested. Both resulted from changing addresses.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at October 25, 2012 11:39 AM

The marijuana-conviction argument for "ban the box" isn't a principled argument. The underlying issue there is the failed Drug War. It doesn't support the position that employers should be banned from asking about *any* criminal history, including fraud or violent offenses, which are highly relevant to employers. Preventing employers from obtaining this extremely useful information just because someone with a marijuana conviction could be discriminated against would be wallpapering over a mold problem, which is the case with so many of these ends-justifying-the-means progressive "solutions" to all of society's problems.

Posted by: Dan at October 25, 2012 1:05 PM
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