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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

 12:44 PM 

Column: Johnson wants to 'ban the box' for federal jobs


This is an excerpt from Nicole Duran's weekly DC Wrap column. Sign up to get the full column in your inbox each week. 

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, is part of a bipartisan, bicameral quartet that has introduced legislation to make it easier for felons to find work. 

President Obama and civil rights group have elevated the issue of "banning the box" from employment applications, referring to the standard box on most asking whether job seekers have a past felony conviction. Johnson, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Reps. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., and Darrell Issa, R-Calif., introduced a bill on Thursday that would prevent the federal government, and its contractors, from initially asking about candidates' criminal pasts. 

Once an applicant is conditionally offered a position, however, their would-be federal employers can then inquire.

"What has struck me most is how challenging we make it for those who truly want to turn their lives around," Johnson stated about his conversations with ex-convicts. 

"If someone getting out of prison wants to work, wants to be a productive member of society, we should do everything we can to facilitate that," he said. 

"Let's follow the growing number of our states and cities and private companies who have decided to 'ban the box' ... so that former prisoners who have done their time and are now trying to get straight with society have a decent shot in a job interview," Obama said in July while addressing the NAACP's annual conference in Philadelphia. 

Obama wants legislation like Johnson's to be just one component of comprehensive justice reform. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, and Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., introduced such a bill, the SAFE Justice Act, in July. 

Sensenbrenner is "open to considering it," his spokeswoman has said of the "ban the box" idea. 

Approximately 9 percent of the population has been convicted of a felony. 

Read Duran's column for more on other DC issues, including Planned Parenthood and a legislative staffer headed to Afghanistan.





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