Ban the Box’: a Major Milepost on a Long Road

On May 13 Gov. Mark Dayton signed “Ban the box” legislation, requiring private employers in Minnesota to wait until someone is selected for an interview before asking about criminal records; a major milepost in the road to restoration: a road not only for people with criminal records seeking employment, but for us as a society. Over the last several decades, the number of Minnesotans throughout the state with some type of a criminal record has increased to an estimated 1 million, or one in five. Some estimates put it even higher. Minnesota has the eighth highest percentage in the nation of its citizens incarcerated or currently on some type of supervision – in 1982 it was one in 98, today it is one in 26. With new and easier access to these records through electronic databases, many Minnesotans are turned away from employment for which they are qualified even though their record may be unrelated to the job, from long ago, or even inaccurate; oftentimes a job denial may be simply based on an applicant’s answer to a confusing question about criminal records on the initial employment application. “Ban the box” is just one policy solution to this problem, although an important and game-changing one.

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