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On behalf of Americans for Prosperity activists across West Virginia, I urge you to support House Bill 4229, Ban the Box Act. This vote may be recorded in our 2024 session legislative scorecard.
Americans for Prosperity believes our criminal justice system should promote both accountability and redemption, which necessitates second chances for individuals with a criminal record. Acquiring a second chance provides people with dignity and allows them to achieve their potential as contributing members of our communities—this provides individuals with the ability and support necessary to avoid future criminal behavior. Barriers that prevent someone from accessing employment, housing, and education are bad for the individual, our communities, and our economy.
HB 4229 removes the selection box on job applications for public employees which individuals currently must check if they have a conviction history. The mere presence of this box often discourages folks from applying for employment and leads to a reduced pool of qualified candidates. The legislation does not require the state to hire an individual nor does it prohibit employers from conducting a background check before hiring a candidate. The policy merely seeks to have applicants, many of whom may be well suited for a position, not be immediately ruled out for employment because of mistakes they’ve made in the past or simply not apply in the first place.
More than 610,000 individuals are released from federal and state prisons each year and many millions more exit local jails. The best estimate available shows that 79 million Americans have a criminal record. These millions of Americans face significant barriers to success when trying to rejoin their community and are frequently left without the opportunity to escape the shadow of their criminal records.
Americans with a criminal record not only face social stigma within their communities, but also over 44,000 legal barriers that impact their ability to start a business, secure employment, find a suitable place to live, and conduct themselves as contributing members of their local communities. One-year post-incarceration, 52% of individuals previously incarcerated will have no employment and even when they can secure employment, their annual incomes will be reduced by more than half for the rest of their lives.
Second chance employment is not only good from a public safety and economic standpoint, but it can also help individual companies achieve their own goals. Business leaders who are willing to provide second chances consistently report these individuals are their hardest working and most committed employees. Employees with a criminal record will – on average – stay with their employer 10% longer than those without a criminal record. With it costing more than $4,100 and taking more than 42 days on average to recruit a new employee, this 10% difference can save employers significant time and money. Similar cost savings should be realized by government agencies under HB 4229.
It is for these reasons we respectfully ask you to support HB 4229, the Ban the Box Act.
Americans for Prosperity-West Virginia
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