Ban-the-Box Could Mean a Fresh Start for Felons

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ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, Va. (WHSV)-- Some people say "banning the box" could give ex-felons a better chance, at a better life.

"But because of that box it was like, well sir, we can't do anything for you but yet I have the skill set," said Michael Richardson, who lives at the Gemeinschaft home.

Richardson applied for a job working at a local car dealership. He's already fixed some of these cars in the parking lot of the Gemeinshaft home. He has been in Gemeinshaft for 45 days. Although, this is nothing compared to his years behind bars. Now, he's simply trying to get his life back on track.

"That doesn't define who I am because I was incarcerated, that defines a moment in my life that I chose to do something I shouldn't have," said Richardson.

Douglas Armel is preparing to start his second job. With a decade in jail, he's looking for a fresh start. Thanks to an employer that was willing to "ban the box", he'll get that start.

"It will allow the employer to get to know you first before making a hasty decision,' said Armel, 'you have to put yourself out there and accept what you can get, and then I can prove myself to other people."

In the last year, the city of Harrisonburg has received over 6,000 applicants for the "ban the box" program. If this box is banned, city workers will still conduct background checks; just later in the hiring process.

"Judge me on what my abilities are, not what my past indiscretions were," said Armel.

Some hope the motion will mean a future for those just released from jail.

Harrisonburg's vice-mayor says the town council will vote on "banning the box" at the Aug. 26 meeting which starts at 7 p.m.