By Alicia Newton

Ban the Box is a national initiative spearheaded locally by 9to5 Atlanta. This initiative is asking employers to remove the box/question from their employment applications asking about an individual’s criminal history before being selected for an interview. The removal of the box will give formerly incarcerated individuals a fair chance to become employed.

A little over two years ago 9to5 organizer Marilynn Winn told me about an initiative she was working on to help the formerly incarcerated obtain employment. I was immediately interested because my partner was struggling to get an interview because he had to check “the box” yes. The look of hurt, frustration, and powerlessness made my heart cry. A recent report by the National Employment Law Project estimates that 65 million people in America – one in four adults, self-included – have been arrested.

I asked Ms. Marilynn where do I sign up. Thus began my involvement with 9to5 and the “Ban the Box” initiative.

Standing with 9to5 on March 25th in the lobby of City Hall as City of Atlanta Human Resource Commissioner Yvonne Yancy accepted an award from 9to5 in honor of the city being the first employer in Georgia to “Ban the Box” was an honor. The press event also fanned the flame of hope that all citizens in Georgia and across our nation, who want to take care of themselves and their families and be productive members of society, will have an opportunity to do so.

Ban the Box is not meant to hide a person’s background. Background checks will still be conducted; just not in the application phase. The stigma of a criminal background is too great a hurdle for most job seekers to surmount.