KCK becomes first city in Kansas to “Ban the Box”

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Commissioners of Wyandotte County's Unified Government want to give ex-offenders a second chance, voting unanimously Thursday night to institute a "Ban the Box" ordinance.

The change will remove the criminal record check box from applications for most jobs with the city, which officials hope ends discriminatory hiring practices.

The move now makes Kansas City, Kan., the first city in the state of Kansas to pass such an ordinance.

"We have to put ordinances in place like this that allow a fair chance for everybody in our community," said Tarence Maddox, commissioner in District 4.

Commissioners explained there will still be standard background checks before the city hires anyone, but, "Taking that box off the application simply gets those people who may have made a mistake a long, long time ago, it gives them an opportunity for an interview," Maddox said.

The change won't apply to public safety or municipal court jobs. But for others, it ensures no one will be automatically disqualified from being considered just because of their criminal history.

It's something that could help ex-offenders like Sam Jones have a fair shot.

"I'm not afraid to admit to where I've been," Jones said at the meeting. "I've made a mistake, but all we are asking for is a second chance."

Kansas City, Mo., adopted the same ordinance last year, championed by city councilman Jermaine Reed.

On Thursday Reed reflected on the change and said he believes it has made a positive impact in the city.

"We've been able to allow persons to come and present their case and not just be what their criminal record could actually mean by just looking on a piece of paper," Reed said.

Ban the Box is a nationwide movement. Thirteen states have adopted statewide fair hiring policies and more than 30 states have at least one city with the ordinance in place.