When someone is facing felony charges, there is a lot at stake. Jail times, high fines, and other criminal penalties may be just the beginning – especially if the charges result in a conviction.
After completing their sentence, it’s not uncommon for a person to have to “start over” with a new job and a new living situation. Unfortunately, this is much easier said than done. Not surprisingly, there is a huge negative stigma that felons have to face, and many jobs and landlords automatically reject applicants with a felony history.
Bottom line? A heavy load is placed on felons who want a second chance at a crime-free life.
This year, the University of Minnesota has decided to make that load a little lighter by giving previously convicted felons a better opportunity to get an education and a second chance at life.
How? By ending the practice of asking applicants if they have previously been convicted of a felony.
University of Minnesota “Bans the Box” – Why It’s Important
Just like most other colleges and universities (not to mention places of employment, apartment complexes, and so on), the University of Minnesota used to have a box asking whether or not the person applying had been previously convicted of a felony. The box didn’t impact the vast majority of applicants in the slightest, and even those that admitted to a criminal history still had a chance. They were further screened, but usually still allowed to continue with their application.
The real issue with having the question there was that it discouraged a lot of felons from applying in the first place. They didn’t even try because they assumed that they would be turned away automatically.
Because of this, the University of Minnesota has decided to “ban the box” from its applications. Individuals applying to start school in fall of 2018 will not have to let officials know about their criminal history. The University does not conduct background checks on applicants, so it is completely possible to hide a criminal record while going through the application process.
This decision has been complicated by the University of Minnesota’s use of the “Common App,” a widely used application system that most colleges use to receive applications. Students must check a box that states, “Have you ever been adjudicated guilty or convicted of a misdemeanor, felony, or other crime? Note that you are not required to answer “yes” to this question, or provide an explanation, if the criminal adjudication or conviction has been expunged, sealed, annulled, pardoned, destroyed, erased, impounded, or otherwise required by law or ordered by a court to be confidential.”
The difference with the University of Minnesota is that the school has refused to look at the answers to the question even if they receive them. For now, the rest of Minnesota’s 13 schools on the Common App will continue to use the “box,” but the question won’t impact their enrollment decisions one way or the other because it will be ignored.
The Origins – and the Future – of “Ban the Box”
Ban the Box did not start in Minnesota. It’s an international campaign focused at getting ex-offenders a second chance in life and not letting their criminal history get in the way. It began in the late ‘90s and gained strength during the Obama Administration. President Obama himself backed “ban the box” legislation and encouraged states to make similar efforts.
By the end of 2016, 24 states had adopted laws or policies that “ban the box” on applications for employers, tenants, or students. In 2014, Governor Dayton signed a bill that extended “Ban the Box” to private employers.
There Is Still a Long Way to Go
The University of Minnesota is certainly taking a step in the right direction, but there are still many obstacles for felons to overcome while trying to get back on their feet. Just to name a few, former felons face additional requirements when trying to do things like apply for food stamps or vote, and they cannot apply to join the military.
This is why every single felony charge should be taken seriously. Even after you have served your time and repaid your debt to society, having a felony on your record is something that will negatively impact your ability to be a productive member of society for the rest of your life. Fight back with the strongest defense possible by reaching out to a Minnesota felonies lawyer.
About the Author:
Christopher Keyser is a Minneapolis-based criminal and DWI defense attorney known for fighting aggressively for his clients and utilizing innovative tactics to get the most positive results. He has been featured in numerous media outlets due to the breadth and depth of his knowledge, and recognized as a Minnesota Super Lawyers Rising Star (2014–2015), a Top 100 Trial Lawyer (2013–2015), and a Top 40 Under 40 Attorney (2013–2015).