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Ban the Box - Support Greater Employment

A job is the single most important factor in reducing poverty in the United States, and yet, for many people faced with economic insecurity, a job remains completely out of reach. The situation is often compounded for people who have spent time in prison. Greyston Bakery, a Yonkers, NY based social enterprise and values led supplier for Ben & Jerry’s that has baked brownies since 1982 hires individuals with barriers to employment- no questions asked. Greyston’s Open Hiring Model is a disruptive force in a market driven system that challenges businesses to use their inherent power to make sustainable change.

This alternative hiring model works on both a social and economic level. As soon as a position becomes available, the bakery calls the next person off the waiting list, trains him/her in baking high quality desserts and cultivates employee readiness. In so doing, Greyston alleviates poverty, produces self-sufficient contributing members to society and reduces the rate of crime and recidivism, all while selling millions of brownies and making a profit.

While many barriers to employment exist, former incarceration remains the most egregious. Incarceration rates are higher in America than any other developed country in the world. Approximately 700,000 individuals who need jobs are released from jail each year. Those 700,000 individuals have the potential to contribute in a meaningful and economically fruitful way to society. Yet, we too often reject anybody who has a record, and thereby, choose to further punish the already punished. As a consequence, we accept the deeply embedded social and economic inequality and extend our silent approval.

Businesses can and should offer employment opportunities to hardworking individuals ready and willing to make serious changes in their lives. As a business owner, you can choose to view individuals holistically. Consider the potential in each person who applies. Consider the impact a job has on someone attempting to re-enter society. Consider the applicant’s family. And, consider the benefit to society as a whole as more self-sufficient members keep the wheels of our economy turning.

And, we should hold businesses accountable legally, because to many, the idea of hiring anyone regardless of a record, even a non-violent one, remains revolutionary. Changing policy can slowly but surely create a fairer, more equitable society. Over 100 cities and 17 states have recently passed Ban the Box laws, asserting that employers must provide conditional job offers prior to requesting criminal histories. Should the employer then decide against hiring the applicant, he/she must provide an explanation. The applicant reserves the right to engage in a discussion about the nature of the crime and provide evidence of good conduct. President Obama is being urged to issue an executive order that would ban the federal government and government contractors from asking most job applicants about their criminal histories.  ASBC attended a meeting this spring at the White House on the issue.

Follow the successful example of Greyston Bakery and make employment a possibility for those who need a job. Supporting the Ban the Box movement gives people a chance at making change - giving them a chance at employment. And, that's a good thing for the individual, the community and the broader economy.

Kerry Sesil is the Marketing Coordinator of Greyston Bakery.