A coalition of Portland organizations are campaigning to remove the question, “Have you ever been convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor?” from job and housing applications. The AFL-CIO, the Urban League of Portland, and Oregon Action say a lack of job opportunities and stable housing are some of the main reasons formerly incarcerated people return to prison. Proponents say (pdf) removing the question about convictions will let applicants explain their background to employers and landlords at the interview stage, giving them a better shot at a more secure life after prison.
But keeping employers from asking about applicants’ criminal backgrounds might encourage them to resort to background checks later in the process, attorney Michael Garone of Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt told OPB. That would mean a higher cost to employers, he said, many of whom already take a nuanced approach to hiring due to Equal Employment Opportunity Commission guidelines.
Multnomah County removed (pdf) the question about criminal history from applications for county jobs in 2007. Seattle, San Francisco and more than 60 other jurisdictions have adopted similar policies.
What do you think? Should the City of Portland “ban the box?”
- Michael Alexander: President and CEO of the Urban League of Portland
- Michael Garone: Attorney at Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt