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New law in New York City gives hope to those with criminal records

A new law in New York City, the Fair Chance Act, prohibits most employers from asking applicants if they have been convicted of a felony.

Historically, people who have done time in prison have a more difficult time finding a job than those with no criminal record. This can have a detrimental effect for those who are trying to turn their lives around and make ends meet. A new law that has been recently implemented in New York City may make a difference for residents with a record.

New York City's Fair Chance Act may give ex-prisoners the chance they need

The Fair Chance Act was signed into law last June and put into effect October 27, states Digital Journal. Laws similar to the FCA have already been implemented in many cities and counties across the country, and are known as "ban-the-box" legislation. Anyone who has ever filled out a job application may be familiar with the check box that asks if applicants have been convicted of a felony. This question proves difficult for those who have done time in prison, because prospective employers will often refuse to consider an application if the box has been checked.

Under the FCA, this question is now banned from job applications and interviews in most cases. Employers will be allowed to perform a background check after a conditional offer of employment is made. Exemptions to this law include law enforcement positions and employers who are required by local and federal laws to perform background checks.

New Yorker with a criminal record relays personal experience

A study by Harvard University showed that applicants who checked "yes" on the felony question were 50 percent less likely to be offered employment than those with no record. This included those who had been convicted of non-violent crimes. CNBC News relayed the story of a New York man who had spent time in prison and experienced difficulties getting a job after his release. He said he had applied for dozens of jobs every day but was only given two opportunities to talk to prospective employers about his conviction. He was finally given a chance to help rebuild New York City after Hurricane Sandy, through his involvement with an advocacy organization helping ex-prisoners find employment. He spoke about friends becoming discouraged, gradually giving up and going back to prison after months or years trying unsuccessfully to find jobs.

Statistics show that the recidivism rate for the formerly incarcerated is high, often because it is so difficult for them to find employment. However, ban-the-box policies may be encouraging, both for those with criminal records and the general public. In Durham County, North Carolina, 96.8 percent of ex-criminals recommended for hire have gotten jobs since the county's ban-the-box policy was introduced. The county has seen applicants with records recommended for hire triple during that time. When qualified people are given an opportunity, thus reducing the risk of going back to prison, the potential impact means less crowded prisons and less waste of taxpayer money, in addition to positively affecting job applicants who previously had little chance.

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