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"Ban the box" not coming to Maryland colleges this year


Maryland has many opportunities for people who were incarcerated after a brush with the criminal justice system. It is one of 14 states that allows individuals to vote immediately after release from prison and is one of 26 states with a Ban the Box policy that prohibits public employers from inquiring about an applicant's criminal background until a pending job offer is made.

However, many obstacles remain for formerly incarcerated individuals returning to society. For example, Gov. Larry Hogan recently vetoed a bill passed by the legislature that would have applied ban the box policies to college admissions. Hogan argued that the legislation would have curtailed colleges and universities' ability to maintain a safe environment.

Colleges are not totally free from violence. However, campuses are usually safer than adjoining non-campus communities. Also, many violent crimes at college are committed by individuals without criminal histories.

A survey of several hundred colleges and universities found that over half of these institutions considered criminal history during their admissions process. Of these schools, 90 percent reported that they had a negative view of applicants with felony records while three-quarters had a negative view of applicants with non-violent drug and alcohol felonies.

Two-thirds of the schools which denied applicants because of their criminal history do not inform them of the reasons for the denial. A smaller number of schools do inform applicants on appealing a denial based on their criminal history.

Hogan also fought other ban the box initiatives. In 2016, the General Assembly overrode his veto of a bill restoring voting rights to criminal records upon their release from prison. This year, the legislature also overrode his veto of a bill lowering obstacles to individuals with non-violent drug convictions to receiving welfare through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Maryland also continues to have other restrictions. For example, "ban the box" does not apply to private employers. This policy also has limited impact to public employers because Maryland, like most states, allows a public employer to withdraw a job offer after criminal screening is performed.

Mounting a vigorous criminal defense can help protect individuals against the long-term consequences of a criminal conviction. A lawyer can also help with expunging criminal records and asserting rights under ban the box policies.

Source: The City Paper, "Op-alt: Hogan's veto of ban the box legislation for universities is another setback," Aliya Webermann, June 1, 2017

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