Giving young men of color a better chance at employment by 'banning the box'

Gina Dalma
Gina Dalma

We Banned the Box.

Together with more than 40 local, state and national foundations, SVCF announced this month that we have “banned the box” on our employment applications. Our philanthropic organizations are adopting fair-chance hiring policies that ensure there are no questions about criminal convictions on applications for employment at our organizations.

Why eliminate those check boxes? Because, simply put, those check boxes create barriers to opportunity for young men of color, and we know that boys and young men of color are much more likely to end up in jail for minor crimes than their white peers. According to the Ella Baker Center, by the end of 2014, black men ages 18-19 were 10 times more likely to be in state or federal prison than white men of the same age. The barriers to opportunity that young men of color face upon release from prison or jail are steep. Incarceration destabilizes their families and makes it nearly impossible for people to get back on their feet. According to the same source, over 60 percent of formerly incarcerated people are unemployed more than one year after being released; those who do find employment earn an average of 40 percent less annually than those who have never been incarcerated.

Too often those of us involved in philanthropy find it easier to tackle societal ills with a pain reliever rather than by treating the causes of the illness. Ban the Box is representative of a deep shift in philanthropy that our organizations are leading. We are acting upon the knowledge that we, as a society, have collectively created an environment in which if you are a boy or young man of color, it is incredibly difficult to thrive and reach your full potential. Our schools hold many deserving kids back, our cities spend more on punitive measures than on supportive services and we collectively have failed to invest in our most precious asset – our youth. The onus to create an environment where all our young people can thrive is on the rest of us, and up to now, we have done a poor job.

Today, and within the framework of My Brother’s Keeper, our foundations are working with cities across our nation, the private sector and our schools to review policies, form new partnerships and work to ensure the environment reflects our belief that all our children can thrive.

We hope that “Ban the Box” is one of many policy shifts that will form a holistic plan for allowing all young people a fair chance to succeed.