At Capitol, advocates push for ex-offender rightsby Sasha Aslanian, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Advocates for ex-offenders and their families gathered at the State Capitol Wednesday, pushing for a law that would require private employers to remove questions about criminal history from employment applications.
The "Second Chance" coalition is hoping to expand on the success it had with a similar 2009 law directed at public employers.
Art Berman, CEO of Twin Cities Rise, a Minneapolis-based job skills and training organization, said "banning the box" would expand the field of candidates at no cost to companies.
"Ban the box is modest step, but it will be very helpful to supporting ex-offenders who are trying very hard to rebuild their lives and who will make excellent employees," Berman said. "It will be good for business."
Employers could still access an applicant's criminal record and credit history, but advocates say it would eliminate discrimination based on the initial application.
At the same event, state Sen. John Harrington, DFL-St. Paul, pushed a bill that would allow 60,000 felons on parole and probation in Minnesota to vote.
Harrington, St. Paul's former police chief, said these individuals have paid their debts to society.
"Twenty states allow individuals who live in the community to vote," he said. "There appears to be no public safety risk and in fact the research shows those who are connected to the community through voting and civic participation are far less likely to reoffend."
The Second Chance coalition said in 2007, almost 2 percent of Minnesota's voting-age population was barred from voting because of a previous felony conviction. That included 10 percent of African-Americans and nearly 7 percent of Native Americans.