Even after you have paid your debt to society, your criminal record can affect your life for years. Depending on the nature of the crimes you were convicted of, you could struggle to find a job, get credit from a bank or rent a home.
A movement called “ban the box” has sought to help people with criminal records get a second chance and pursue their careers. “Ban the box” refers to the line in many job applications in which the applicant is asked to check a box if they have ever been arrested or convicted of a crime.
Ban the box in Arkansas
So far, 33 states have passed laws removing that question from applications for government jobs. Arkansas is not among them, but Little Rock and Pulaski County have banned the box. And Pine Bluff recently became the third local government entity in Arkansas to stop asking job applicants about their criminal history.
The Pine Bluff City Council passed the ordinance earlier in May. Alderman Lloyd Holcomb Jr. noted that employers often throw out job applications in which a criminal history is acknowledged. Applicants don’t get the chance to show they are qualified for the job or that they have moved on from past mistakes.
“Doing this gives people a chance at a fresh start,” Holcomb said, while noting that Pine Bluff will still conduct background checks on potential city employees.
More job opportunities on the horizon?
As the public understands more and more the problems with the criminal justice system and the crushing burden a criminal record can be, more private employers might join Pine Bluff, Little Rock and the majority of the states in banning the box.
Until then, the best way of avoiding the long-term impact of a conviction – not to mention prison – is to do everything possible to provide yourself an excellent criminal defense. But if you do have a record, an attorney may be able to get some or all of it expunged.