What is “Ban the Box”? This ban prohibits automatically disqualifying job applicants with a prior conviction. Job applicants with criminal histories will no longer have to check a box disclosing that they have been convicted of, or pled guilty to, a crime. After the employer has evaluated the applicant on his or her abilities and experiences and asked the applicant to come in for an interview, the employer can ask about any convictions.

A recent National Employment Law Project (NELP) report stated that an estimated 65 million Americans—or one in four adults—have a criminal record that may show up on a routine background check report. The goal of “Ban the Box” legislation is to provide job applicants an opportunity to be evaluated on their qualifications rather than being automatically excluded from consideration for employment solely because of such a criminal record. Nationwide, over 40 cities and counties have taken steps to removing unfair barriers to employment based on prior convictions.

States with cities and counties that have enacted “Ban the Box” include California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia-(12 jurisdictions), and Washington, DC.

New York (since 1977), Pennsylvania (since 1979), and Wisconsin (since 1981) have in place anti-discrimination legislation relating to prior convictions. Hawaii has had “Ban the Box” and anti-discrimination legislation in place since 1998.

In 2009-2010, the states of Connecticut, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and New Mexico passed “Ban the Box” legislation. Since then, Colorado and Rhode Island passed “Ban the Box” legislation; and Illinois and California prohibit automatically disqualifying applicants with a prior conviction and have removed “the box” from their applications for state employment that inquire about prior convictions.

Rhode Island prohibits both private as well as public employers from asking about criminal history on a job application. Similar public/private bans are in place in Massachusetts, Hawaii, and Minnesota.

Illinois Governor Quinn made a compelling case for “Ban the Box” with this comment: "Formerly incarcerated individuals shouldn’t face a life sentence of no job prospects and no opportunities to better themselves just because they have served time in prison. These new (“Ban the Box”) laws will help them get back on their feet, contribute to their communities and keep one offense from becoming a life-long barrier.”