Man Fights to 'Ban Box' on Job Applications To Help Ex-Offenders

By: Anna-Lysa Gayle Email
By: Anna-Lysa Gayle Email

WAYNESBORO, Va. (WHSV) After winning the fight to restore nonviolent offender's rights, the founder of the Hollaback and Restore Project, or H.A.R.P., is looking to change ex-offender's lives in another way.

Mercedies Harris said "banning the box" is about more than just helping ex-offenders avoid judgment on job applications. He said it is also about helping them become a productive part of society.

The tiny box on most job applications that asks "Have you been convicted of a felony?" is the one Harris wants to see removed.

"'Ban the box' is part of the process of getting your rights back once you lose them, being able to get a job, to sustain and being a productive citizen," said Harris.

He spent more than a decade in prison for cocaine distribution, after which, he said, his job applications were overlooked.

"I know how it feels to walk down the block and go to McDonald's, and they tell you, 'We can't hire you because you're a felon,' and you're looking at a place where you say, 'I'm flipping hamburgers,'" said Harris.

"It makes me feel like I'm less of a person in regards to someone who has not been convicted of a felony crime," said Dennis Gordon, who served time in prison for a hit and run.

"I worked at a lot of places. Some people, when they get to the application, they go straight to the box, and then they have a pile of boxed and then un-boxed," said Tony, co-owner of Market on Main. He supports "banning the box."

Since starting the petition last Wednesday, Harris says 50 people have joined him in the fight. He plans to approach Waynesboro City Council with the proposal for the ordinance. The next council meeting is scheduled for Nov. 13.

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