City leaders look to "ban the box" on job applications in Chatta - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

City leaders look to "ban the box" on job applications in Chattanooga

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -

Chattanooga city leaders are pushing to "ban the box" on its job applications.

If passed, it would remove the portion of the job application that asks applicants if they have been convicted of a crime.

City Councilman, Yusuf Hakeem hopes that "banning the box" will give job seekers (with criminal records) a fair shot at a second chance. It would affect anyone applying for Chattanooga city government jobs, not private sector businesses.

"It's so unfortunate that people have been turned away so many times, they don't believe they can get a job," Hakeem said.

The effort to ban the box was spearheaded by the NAACP several years ago.

"We say we want people off the streets, we don't want them involved in crime. Well, let's get them involved with a job," said Hakeem.

Heather Crawford is a convicted felon. She got out of prison in 2013 after serving two years for felony drug charges.

"The first year that I was out, it took me about 150 applications later to finally find a job," she said.

Crawford admits that the job-searching process isn't easy, given her history. But, she says, she uses "the box" to her advantage.

"As a felon, I believe the box should stay, because that gives me an opportunity to be able to explain my situation," said Crawford. "To explain what happened, explain the rehabilitation programs I went through while i was in there to try to recover, and then what I've done since I've been out."

The current delay in banning the box in Chattanooga is due to wording in the city's charter. It says that all Chattanooga government employees must be eligible to vote in the state of Tennessee.

Anyone convicted of a felony loses their right to vote.

"To change that, it would require the citizens of Chattanooga to actually make that amendment," said Wade Hinton, City Attorney.

Other cities in Tennessee, including Nashville, "ban the box" on its job applications.

If city council passes a resolution, then amending Chattanooga's city charter would go on a referendum next August.

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