Public AffairsPolitics / February 25, 2014

Council Passes Measure On Ex-Offender Hiring

Sam Klemet
Council Passes Measure On Ex-Offender Hiring

The Indianapolis City County Council voted, Monday, 26-2 in favor of a proposal that prohibits city and county contractors from asking applicants about their criminal history.

The measure is known nationally as “Ban the Box.”’

It bars companies that contract with Indianapolis and Marion County from asking about criminal histories during initial interviews.

Democratic Councilor Vop Osili authored the proposal and says its intention is to give everyone a fair shake at employment.

"I think most of us would agree that everyone needs a fair shot at a job," he said. "Everyone who plays by the rules should be able to get ahead.  And, everyone who makes mistakes and then owns up to those mistakes, pays for those mistakes, and then demonstrates that they have learned from those mistakes, should be given a second chance."

He says a criminal record reduces a person’s chance of getting hired by 50 percent and unemployment is a key factor in returning to incarceration.

The measure received some push back from Republican Councilor Aaron Freeman who cast one of the two votes in opposition.

"I think it is very important to know who's an offender.  What were they an offender of?  Are they a sex offender?  Are they a low level theft offender with conversion?  I sure want to know that. And, I don't want a sex offender working in the parks department," he said.  "I think we should know and by doing this we are taking our ability to know away."

About 5,000 people are released from Marion County jails every year and roughly half return to jail within three years.

It costs the city about $32,000 a year to keep someone behind bars.

"The purpose of this proposal is to level the playing field," said Osili.   "It is not to provide preferential treatment.  It is to level the playing field.  This proposal is in place for the city and county government of Indianapolis and Marion County to lead by example."

Republican Councilor Mariyln Pfisterer says "it's a small step in the right direction" and is important for the applicants get one-on-one interviews "to be able to convince that employer that they have changed."