KC moves to ‘ban the box’ about job applicants’ criminal histories

A small group of Kansas City Council members, pastors and crime-prevention advocates rallied Monday in favor of banning questions on applications about job candidates’ criminal histories.

The “ban the box” effort has been embraced in seven states and more than 40 cities, said City Councilman Jermaine Reed, who is sponsoring the proposal. The council will consider it Wednesday.

The measure would eliminate the need for an applicant for a municipal job to check a box if that person has a criminal background.

“We believe that people are more than their criminal record,” Reed said. He emphasized that the city still would perform background checks before hiring anyone, but checking the box would not automatically disqualify someone from consideration.

Reed was joined at the rally by council colleagues John Sharp and Michael Brooks and by members of the Kansas City Crime Commission and several faith groups.

Sharp, who leads the council’s Public Safety Committee, said he thought the measure would enhance public safety because people who have paid their debts to society still must find employment after they are released from prison.

The measure would primarily serve as a symbolic example to the private sector because the city already considers job applicants who have criminal backgrounds. Gary O’Bannon, the city’s human resources director, said his office will have more information at Wednesday’s hearing about how those candidates are screened and hired .