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February 19 2014

D.C. Council member Tommy Wells introduced “ban-the-box” legislation

D.C. Council member Tommy Wells introduced “ban-the-box” legislation that would bar employers from inquiring about job applicants' criminal records, a practice he says hinders employment opportunities for returning citizens. "The bill would only allow employers to ask about an applicant's record of conviction once a conditional offer of employment has been extended," he said. "The bill would continue our efforts to address the challenges facing our returning citizens."

District government statistics show that about 60,000 residents have criminal records. Each year, an estimated 8,000 residents return to the city after serving prison sentences and roughly 50% are incarcerated again within three years. While most on hand supported the bill, Kathy Hollinger, the president of the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington, argued that small businesses will essentially have to use valuable time on paperwork to justify not hiring a returning citizen. Rowe countered that Wells' legislation will not require a business to hire anyone but will give returning citizens a fair chance to be employed. Businesses will not be required to hire someone who has committed a crime in the arena in which the business specializes.