Letters to the Editor

Florida businesses should ‘ban the box’

For Floridians concerned that outdated criminal-justice laws are endangering public safety and ruining people’s lives, it’s heartening that Congress has indicated that it hopes to take up the issue during the coming weeks. But it remains unclear whether any legislation will make it to the president’s desk.

That’s why the roughly 393,000 employers that call Florida home should consider voluntarily taking action themselves. Businesses have a powerful role to play in giving individuals with criminal records a second chance. The easiest step they can take is to “ban the box.”

Most employers require job seekers to check a box on an application if they have any criminal record. Too often, this can function as an automatic “application denied” for those who have a blemish in their past.

Nationwide, some 650,000 incarcerated individuals rejoin society every year, and they desperately need jobs to help them transition into society and provide for themselves and their families. But the criminal record box often shuts them out of the job market before they can get a foot in the door.

Koch Industries officially banned the box on our job application last year. We delay the question until later in the hiring process. This allows us to consider a candidate’s past record in the context of their other life experiences. Companies big and small have made the same choice; it makes sense from a business perspective.

We recognize that banning the box may not make sense for every business, which is why a government mandate isn’t the solution. Each employer needs to make its own decision on this issue.

Florida businesses can help those with criminal records by breaking down barriers that stand in their way. No one should be judged forever based on what they did on their worst day — and everyone deserves a second chance.

Mark Holden, general counsel and senior vice president, Koch Industries