Banning the Box

Goliath T. Davis, PhD

As far back as I can remember, parents, friends and elders admonished me and others to never go for the “O Kee Doke” and avoid being hoodwinked.  Individuals experienced in life and the ways of the world are known to reach out with phrases such as “let me pull your coat” or “let me school you” when they perceive a need to ensure one is not fooled or misguided by falsehoods, slick talk, misinformation or half-truths.

Some in our community are impeded in their employment quests due to adverse encounters with the criminal justice system. Regrettably, the incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman has made “banning the box” a central component of his campaign platform.

Kriseman proudly proclaims applicants seeking employment with the City of St. Petersburg are no longer required to “check the box” regarding arrests and other criminal justice-related identifiers. I have encountered countless individuals who believe banning the box is synonymous with employment, and I have spent a considerable amount of time “schooling” job applicants one on one to the contrary.

I take this opportunity to offer some insight to a larger audience regarding the issue with hopes that those who are not aware can avoid the Kriseman “O Kee Doke.”

Banning the box may reduce the number of applicants eliminated in the hiring process for “falsifying” their applications because they failed to acknowledge an arrest or conviction, which, depending upon the job the applicant seeks, may be a disqualifier. Banning the box does not produce notable increases in the number of employed job seekers.

The information Kriseman does not share when boasting about banning the box is that in order to qualify for any full-time position with the City of St. Petersburg, applicants must successfully complete one or more of the following:  a criminal background investigation, medical screen, drug screen, credit check and a Department of Motor Vehicles Driver’s License background check.

Applicants for specified part-time positions may also be required to successfully complete one or more of the aforementioned employment selection hurdles.  In other words, the mayor will allow you to apply for a position knowing the probability of success may be extremely low due to background variables.

Arrests and other criminal justice employment disqualifiers are usually detected during the background investigation and result in an applicant’s discontinuance in the employment process.

Goliath T. Davis, PhD

Goliath T. Davis, PhD

Salient questions remain: is it ethical to mislead applicants regarding their employment potential; and is the deceptive practice an efficient use of city personnel and other resources? The answer for most is probably a resounding no!

Please don’t be fooled by this (Banning the Box) and other Kriseman “O Kee Dokes.”

Goliath J. Davis, III, Ph.D.

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