North Las Vegas City Council members fielded a proposal during a recent meeting that would see municipal job applications missing a common feature: a criminal history box.
These boxes must be checked during the application process in order for the applicant to disclose their criminal history. In the eyes of city officials like Mayor John Lee, this one simple check can shut the door on what could have otherwise been a great opportunity for both the employer and applicant.
Assemblyman Tyrone Thompson introduced the proposal, calling it “a fair chance at hiring based on skills, ability and merit.” Thompson says that employers should be focused on getting to know an applicant as they are now, not worrying about what they “did years ago.”
Mayor John Lee seemed to approve of the proposal, commenting that an employer can say, “I like this guy. I think he could fit in this position,” before running a background check. Under this scenario, says Lee, the employer will still discover the prior conviction but may decide, “I can live with that.”
The proposal is similar to a bill Assemblyman Thompson introduced last year, which stalled in Legislature. He hopes to gain support and encourage the bill to be reintroduced next session.
HOPE for People Trying to Rehabilitate After Parole
According to Assemblyman Thompson, not using criminal history boxes on applications “eliminates a lot of discrimination that occurs on the front end when people apply.”
This experience — of being rejected for a job right off the bat for a prior conviction — has stalled the life of many people who could otherwise contribute to the North Las Vegas economy.
Attesting to this fact to the council, the organization HOPE for Prisoners introduced former convict Christopher Ellis. Ellis spoke of his anxiety at finding a way to support himself following his release.
“When I came home, (I was) just drained. I knew that I was going home to nothing, and it was going to be hard. I’m not going to get a job. I have this record. I’m labeled as a thug,” he shared with the City Council.
Fortunately, HOPE for Prisoners was able to help him secure a job with Transdev, a local paratransit company. Las Vegas-based HOPE for Prisoners has helped 336 individuals in 2015 alone, over a third of which came from North Las Vegas.
The opportunity HOPE gave Ellis turned his life around, he says. “I never imagined my life would be as good as it is right now. My family is proud.”
Joining Others in Avoiding Recidivism
Agreeing with the tentative Ban the Box proposal, NLV Councilwoman Anita Wood noted how discriminating against convicts early in the hiring process only creates a vicious cycle. “If we keep rejecting (people with records), we’re almost pushing them back into recidivism because you can’t get a job and you can’t survive,” she commented during the presentation.
Currently, more than 150 U.S. cities and counties have removed criminal history questions from their initial job application. If the Ban the Box proposal moves forward, North Las Vegas would be the first city in Nevada to join them.