Dauphin County considers “ban the box” initiative

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HARRISBURG - Dauphin County commissioners heard from community leaders Wednesday hoping to “ban the box,” potentially removing a question about criminal history from some county job applications.

Dauphin County would be the second county in the state to do this, following in the path of Allegheny County as well as the city of Harrisburg.

"[The county sees] a lot of crossover in people that have been in jail, they come out and get into other trouble when they get out because they can't find a job,” David Black, president of the Harrisburg Regional Chamber of Commerce, said.

“It costs a lot less to keep a person in a job than in prison,” Stanley Lawson, president of the Harrisburg NAACP, added. “If you're in prison, it costs us money.”

The question on Dauphin County's employment application reads: “Have you ever been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor?” It's a question that has previously disqualified anyone with a criminal record.

“The theory behind banning the box, removing that from applications is that sometimes some very qualified people who maybe did something not so great in their past and did have some kind of a conviction don't get a second look,” Black said.

Leaders say the county would still perform background checks on applicants who reach the interview stage, giving these applicants a better chance to explain their past and demonstrate their willingness to work.

“They want to work because they want to make a living and not go back to jail,” Lawson said. “They served their time, so they would work very hard and provide for their families like you and I.”

Dauphin County commissioners told the group they could vote on the proposal in the coming weeks.