Advocacy group hopes to alleviate future crime with “Ban the Box” campaign

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. – It’s a tiny box on an employment application, but whether or not it’s checked makes all the difference, according to some in Wyandotte County. The Unified Government Board of Commissioners is expected to vote Thursday night on a measure an advocacy group says will level the playing field.

Commissioners are set to vote on the “Ban the Box” campaign. The box refers to whether or not a job applicant has been convicted of a crime or felony. If the vote passes, the box will be removed from city job applications.

Jesse Blakey is the vice president of Northeast Advocacy Group. He says it’s a group of elders in the community who are aiming to change what he calls an area blighted by crime.

“Once that box is checked, it goes right in the trash. The 'Ban the Box' initiative is specifically geared toward people who are coming out of prison, or who are transitioning back into the system and unfortunately this is the area that a great majority of them are going to come back into,” Blakey said.

That group is calling upon the Unified Government Board of Commissioners to ban the box. That means city job applicants won’t have to disclose a criminal past by checking a box which asks whether one has been previously convicted of a crime or felony.

“If we can get them to be gainfully employed, then some of the crime that we have to deal with, that will alleviate itself just by way of someone being gainfully employed,” Blakey said.

He explained he hears first-hand stories often, from people who want to work.

“They say, ‘Hey man, I’m looking for a job, but I can’t find one,’” he explained.

Blakely hopes if the city takes this step, it will set a precedent for other employers.

“If we can get that done, then other companies will follow suit, we believe,” he said.

The same initiative passed in April 2013 in Kansas City, Mo.

“That is what has been kind of motivation for us, because if it can work over there on that side of the river, we know it can work on this side,” Blakey said.

If the vote passes, the only city applications that will keep the box are positions in public safety and municipal court. Kansas City, Kan. employees about 2,200 people.