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UVA Researchers: Ban the Box Policy Leading to More Discrimination

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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) -

Researchers from the University of Virginia say a policy meant to help ex-offenders get jobs may actually lead to more discrimination.

Many states, including Virginia, now have so called "ban the box" policies that prohibit employers from asking a job applicant if they've ever been convicted of a felony crime. New research says denying employers information makes them rely on shortcuts to guess, which is often based on race.

UVA Professor Jen Doleac and her research partner Ben Hansen found that most employers don't want to hire ex-offenders for a variety of reasons, often expecting someone just out of prison to be less job ready than another applicant.

They say taking away information about someone's criminal status doesn't change that, it just leads to employers discriminating more broadly.

“Employers still don't want to hire folks with criminal records and so now when they can't see who has a record up front, they're left to guess who has a record,” Doleac said. “They will avoid interviewing, in particular, young, low-skilled black and Hispanic.”

Doleac and Hansen found that after communities, counties, or states enacted "ban the box" laws, employment for young black and Hispanic men fell "significantly and substantially."

Doleac says that while people pushing the policy have the best intentions, resources could be better spent trying to actually provide ex-offenders job training or other skill-acquiring programs rather than just hiding their conviction status.

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