Ban the Box: Create LGBTQ Employment Opportunities
Imagine being held in a prison cell for 23 hours a day with no access to classes, programs, or communal meals. The only choice, other than this isolation, is prison general population. General population is a place of terror for LGBTQ prisoners, as almost a majority of LGBTQ prisoners report being raped or sexually assaulted.
And then the day you’re released from prison should be a day of relief.
Except that it isn’t for many people reentering their communities. They’re met with challenges accessing jobs, housing, and health care.
That’s why we need to support formerly incarcerated people. We must help them access education, employment, and housing. Only then can we help them break the cycle of poverty and violence that lead to high prison recidivism rates. Statistics indicate that more than two-thirds of state prisoners are rearrested within three years of their release and half are re-incarcerated.
Reentering LGBTQ people face particular challenges: homophobic or transphobic parole or probation officers, lack of access to transition related or HIV-related medical care, sex-segregated housing in community corrections centers or shelters, and lack of resources for LGBTQ survivors of intimate partner violence. But they also face the same challenges most reentering people face: finding a job, finding housing, and accessing health care.
In most states, reentering people, who need jobs to meet the terms of their probation, are legally discriminated against in hiring practices. Private and public sector employers in a majority of states are permitted to ask about an applicant’s arrest record—employers regularly include a “box” on job applications that applicants are required to check if they’ve ever been convicted of a felony.
At the state and local levels, advocates are working to ensure reentering people have access to employment opportunities and are not placed in programs that will make successful reentry nearly impossible. Those programs affect LGBTQ formerly incarcerated people, who face additional institutional challenges in reentering.
On the federal level, federal contractors currently deny reentering people a fair chance in hiring by asking about prior arrests. President Obama could issue an executive order that would “ban the box” on job applications, granting new opportunities to reentering people and contributing to economic growth for us all.
That’s why we ask you to join us in urging President Obama to ban the box on job applications for federal contractors. The box is a barrier to employment and self-sufficiency.
Already, seventeen states and the District of Columbia have banned the box for state government contractors, in addition to corporations like Koch Industries, Target, Wal-Mart, and Bed, Bath & Beyond. Banning the box means committing to fair chance hiring and economic growth. The federal government needs to join these states and companies and be a leader in providing resources and opportunities for formerly incarcerated people, to treating them with respect, humanity, and dignity, and to committing to economic growth that will benefit us all.
Join us today, Wednesday, June 10, 2015 in a Ban the Box Day of Action as we urge President Obama to issue an executive order banning the box in federal contractor job applications. Tweet, send a Facebook message, or write a letter telling President Obama to require all companies that are federal contractors to ban the box. Click here for more information on how to tell President Obama you support formerly incarcerated people and their families.
Let’s work together to make the day formerly incarcerated people leave prison is a happy day in their lives, a day when they know they’ll be greeted by structures in place to build them up, not send them back to prisons and jails, and that will give them the fair chances they deserve.
By Francesca Rebecca Acocella, National LGBTQ Task Force Holley Law Fellow