Spartanburg makes it easier for people with convictions to get jobs

FILE - In this April 22, 2015, file photo, a job seeker fills out an application during a National Career Fairs job fair in Chicago. The Labor Department said Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016, applications for jobless aid rose 4,000 to a seasonally adjusted 284,000. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)

SPARTANBURG, S.C. (WSPA) – Just one question on a job application can make some people fifty percent less likely to get the position.

Spartanburg City Council voted Monday night to ‘ban the box’ that asks people applying for a job with the city to identify if they’ve been convicted of a crime.

People in support of this resolution say it’s just one step at the beginning of the application process that lets people be judged on their merits and not mistakes.

“It removes some of that stigma and shame that people with convictions face when applying for a job,” said Meghan Smith, who brought the idea to council earlier this year.

According to the city’s resolution, nearly 70 million Americans with convictions have problems finding jobs. Many of those people are in the upstate.

“People make mistakes,” said City Councilwoman Rosalyn Henderson Myers.  “They make bad decisions, but they’re not bad people.”

City Council voted unanimously to ban the box on applications for city employees, and it’s already in effect.

“We’re all about fairness and giving people opportunities, and of course if someone is the best qualified yet they may have a criminal history…we don’t want to just throw somebody out,” Henderson Myers said.

The vote had the support of half of the people who packed council chambers.

“It’s the government saying we are still for you…we want you to be productive members of society who can support your families, support yourself, rather than having to go back maybe to a life of crime or how you supported yourself before,” Smith said.

They want to expand it to other cities and counties and even private business owners.

Smith says one of the most prevalent concerns she faced was safety.        “We’re not talking about picking people out of prison and placing them in in a job,” Smith said. “You still have to be the best person and be qualified for that job.”

Council says it will help make people more productive citizens and cut down on unemployment.

“It gives all people a leg up in order to help to alleviate that problem and to help us employ people gainfully,” Henderson Myers said.

Spartanburg is only the second place in the state to do this. York County voted to ban the box earlier this year.

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