Have you ever been convicted of a felony?

That's an uncomfortable question to have to answer. Especially if you're trying to get a job. And having to respond by checking a box "yes" or "no" — without much room for additional information — doesn't seem fair.


Image via the City of Baton Rouge.

If you disclose a criminal background to a potential employer, it's hard to know whether it was held against you.

Unless, of course, you get the job, which is unlikely for former convicts, according to a study by Princeton and Northwestern universities. It's a problem that could affect millions, as over 600,000 people exit prison every year.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

As part of a broad plan to stem mass incarceration, President Obama is asking federal agencies to hold criminal background inquiries for later in their hiring processes to avoid potential discrimination. But the president is not alone on the issue.

A growing number of political leaders want to "ban the box" by removing the question from job applications.

Laws banning the box have passed in 19 states and over 100 cities from every nook of the country. They're known as "fair chance" laws.

Photo by Larry French/Getty Images for ColorOfChange.org.

The idea isn't to get rid of a safeguard. Employers still have the right to run background checks. Banning the box just levels the playing field for folks with criminal pasts who want to rejoin the workforce but are likely to be dismissed solely because of their pasts.

These laws are passing with strong support from Democrats and Republicans at all levels of government.

At the municipal level, for example, New York City's fair chance law passed in a landslide, and the Louisville, Kentucky, city council passed a law without dissent.

And at the state level, the Nebraska legislature unanimously passed a fair chance law in 2014, making it the first "red" state to take the action. Just months later, GOP presidential candidate Gov. Chris Christie signed a fair chance hiring bill into law in New Jersey.

“Everyone deserves a second chance in New Jersey. Today, we're banning the box." — Gov. Chris Christie. Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images.

City officials in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, are among the latest to join the ban-the-box movement. In one of the highest-crime cities in the country, many Baton Rouge residents face hiring discrimination because of their criminal records.

City council member C. Denise Marcelle sees fair chance laws as an important way to change the trend by opening doors for ex-cons to make a living without crime.

Photo by the City of Baton Rouge.

A federal "ban the box" bill — the Fair Chance Act — has been introduced by a bipartisan group in Congress.

And a bizarre alliance of lobbies agree on the issue. Among them are the NAACP, the ACLU, and — wait for it — the Koch brothers.

Banning the box has also surfaced in the 2016 presidential race, particularly among the candidates for the Democratic nomination. Hopefully issues like it — ones that are plainly about doing what's right — can pierce the static and keep us focused on what's really at stake when we're choosing our leadership.

Here's a lighter take on banning the box by "The Daily Show" that sheds a little more light on why it's gaining so much support:

That first car is a rite of passage into adulthood. Specifically, the hard-earned lesson of expectations versus reality. Though some of us are blessed with Teslas at 17, most teenagers receive a car that’s been … let’s say previously loved. And that’s probably a good thing, considering nearly half of first-year drivers end up in wrecks. Might as well get the dings on the lemon, right?

Of course, wrecks aside, buying a used car might end up costing more in the long run after needing repairs, breaking down and just a general slew of unexpected surprises. But hey, at least we can all look back and laugh.

My first car, for example, was a hand-me-down Toyota of some sort from my mother. I don’t recall the specific model, but I definitely remember getting into a fender bender within the first week of having it. She had forgotten to get the brakes fixed … isn’t that a fun story?

Jimmy Fallon recently asked his “Tonight Show” audience on Twitter to share their own worst car experiences. Some of them make my brake fiasco look like cakewalk (or cakedrive, in this case). Either way, these responses might make us all feel a little less alone. Or at the very least, give us a chuckle.

Here are 22 responses with the most horsepower:

Keep Reading Show less

TikTok about '80s childhood is a total Gen X flashback.

As a Gen X parent, it's weird to try to describe my childhood to my kids. We're the generation that didn't grow up with the internet or cell phones, yet are raising kids who have never known a world without them. That difference alone is enough to make our 1980s childhoods feel like a completely different planet, but there are other differences too that often get overlooked.

How do you explain the transition from the brown and orange aesthetic of the '70s to the dusty rose and forest green carpeting of the '80s if you didn't experience it? When I tell my kids there were smoking sections in restaurants and airplanes and ashtrays everywhere, they look horrified (and rightfully so—what were we thinking?!). The fact that we went places with our friends with no quick way to get ahold of our parents? Unbelievable.

One day I described the process of listening to the radio, waiting for my favorite song to come on so I could record it on my tape recorder, and how mad I would get when the deejay talked through the intro of the song until the lyrics started. My Spotify-spoiled kids didn't even understand half of the words I said.

And '80s hair? With the feathered bangs and the terrible perms and the crunchy hair spray? What, why and how?

Keep Reading Show less

"Veteran" mom and "new" mom parent differently.

When a couple has their first child, they start out with the greatest of intentions and expectations. The child will only eat organic food. They will never watch TV or have screen time and will always stay clean.

But soon, reality sets in and if they have more kids, they'll probably be raised with a lot less attention. As a result, first-born kids turn out a bit differently than their younger siblings.

"Rules are a bit more rigid, attention and validation is directed and somewhat excessive," Niro Feliciano, LCSW, a psychotherapist and anxiety specialist, told Parents. "As a result, firstborns tend to be leaders, high achievers, people-pleasing, rule-following and conscientious, several of the qualities that tend to predict success."

Keep Reading Show less