Clinton Endorses a Proposal to Help Ex-Cons Find Work

The presidential front-runner joins her Democratic rivals in backing “Ban the Box.”

Brian Cahn/ZUMA

Fight disinformation. Get a daily recap of the facts that matter. Sign up for the free Mother Jones newsletter.


After her two leading rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination became targets of the Black Lives Matter movement, Hillary Clinton came armed with policy arguments when she met with members of the African-American activist group last week. The protesters from Massachusetts had shown up too late to disrupt the Clinton event in New Hampshire, but Clinton’s campaign arranged a short meeting afterward. A video of the session appeared last night on MSNBC and subsequently on YouTube via GOOD Magazine.

Clinton encouraged the activists to present a more coherent policy prescription for helping black people, telling them, “Let’s get an agenda that addresses as much of the problem as we can.” The agenda she laid out included housing programs, job opportunities, and one specific policy that has become a rallying cry among social justice activists: “Ban the Box.”

The argument behind the Ban the Box campaign is simple. Many job applications currently include a small box that potential employees must check if they’ve been convicted of a crime. It’s a tool employers frequently use to weed out applicants. This makes it significantly harder for people with a criminal record to land a job: Studies have shown that men who said they had criminal records were 50 percent less likely to hear back from an employer, and the effect is more pronounced for black men. According to the National Institute of Justice, between 60 and 75 percent of ex-offenders cannot find a job within a year of being released from prison.

Clinton’s Democratic opponents Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley have already both explicitly endorsed banning the box in the position papers they released on criminal and racial justice.

Unlike Sanders and O’Malley, Clinton has yet to put forward a comprehensive plan for criminal justice reform. The Clinton campaign didn’t respond to a request to clarify Clinton’s views on Ban the Box, but in an earlier speech the same day as her meeting with the activists, she touted the idea. “At the end of the day, people can make their own judgment” on whether to hire someone, she told a man in the audience who had been convicted of murder and struggled to find a job after being released. “But you shouldn’t be automatically disqualified.” She went on to explain what banning the box would allow: “You can get through the process and then, before somebody has to make a decision about you, you tell them. So they’re looking at you not as a statistic, but as a person. If you have the skills and the personality and the other qualities that might lead them to give you a job, you wouldn’t be eliminated at the very beginning.”

HERE ARE THE FACTS:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

ONE MORE QUICK THING:

Our fall fundraising drive is off to a rough start, and we very much need to raise $250,000 in the next couple of weeks. If you value the journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us do it with a donation today.

As we wrote over the summer, traffic has been down at Mother Jones and a lot of sites with many people thinking news is less important now that Donald Trump is no longer president. But if you're reading this, you're not one of those people, and we're hoping we can rally support from folks like you who really get why our reporting matters right now. And that's how it's always worked: For 45 years now, a relatively small group of readers (compared to everyone we reach) who pitch in from time to time has allowed Mother Jones to do the type of journalism the moment demands and keep it free for everyone else.

Please pitch in with a donation during our fall fundraising drive if you can. We can't afford to come up short, and there's still a long way to go by November 5.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate