Grange pushing “second chance” bill

Robert Childs, executive director of the N.C. Harm Reduction Coalition

Proposal would forbid state agencies from asking criminal history on applications

RALEIGH — A proposal by New Hanover County state Rep. Holly Grange that would give people with criminal convictions a better chance at job interviews could be taken up by the N.C. Senate during this year’s short session.

House Bill 409 would forbid state agencies from asking for criminal histories on job applications. It passed the House during the 2017 session and was referred to the Senate Rules Committee. Grange said she planned to ask the committee’s chairman, Sen. Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick, to help her move the bill forward in the Senate.

“It’s an important bill,” said Grange, R-New Hanover. People with criminal records who can’t find a job “lose all hope and think they’re not contributing to society and not taking care of their families.”

The National Institute of Justice concluded that not only does employment after release reduce the chance of returning to prison, but “employment prospects for applicants with criminal records improved when applicants had an opportunity to interact with the hiring manager, particularly when these interactions elicited sympathetic responses from the manager.”

The bill encourages private employers to follow the state’s lead, but does not require them to. Grange said she could understand a hesitancy on the part of legislators to mandate the requirement on private employers.

“This only applies to state jobs,” she said. “It doesn’t even apply to local governments.”

Such “ban the box” legislation — so named after the box on most job application forms asking candidates to indicate a criminal history — has the support of advocacy groups like the N.C. Harm Reduction Coalition, which helps people engaging in risky behaviors stay safe.

“North Carolina should not prevent opportunities of economic liberation for its residents with criminal records. After they serve their time, we should provide them with opportunities for a fresh start, because they deserve a fair chance at employment. Consistent employment of people with criminal records results in reduced crime, a boost in tax revenues and reduced court costs,” said Robert Childs, the organization’s executive director.

Childs provided the StarNews with studies showing that “fair chance” hiring practices reduced recidivism court costs in municipalities that enacted them, helping some of the estimated 70 million Americans with some kind of criminal history a chance to contribute to society.

“The bottom line is that so many people have criminal records,” Grange said. “The best way to reduce recidivism is to have someone who has been rehabilitated have gainful employment.”

House Bill 409 facts

  • Would forbid state agencies from asking for criminal histories on job applications.
  • Does not apply to private companies.
  • Passed the House 98-14 on April 11.
  • In the Senate Rules Committee and can be voted on in the short session.

Reporter Tim Buckland can be reached at 910-343-2217 or Tim.Buckland@StarNewsOnline.com.