City acts to help ex-convicts

Board approves new hiring policy

December 06, 2007|By John Fritze | John Fritze,SUN REPORTER

Baltimore will no longer ask certain potential employees whether they have been convicted of a crime, under a policy change approved yesterday intended to prevent discrimination against former convicts.

The city Board of Estimates unanimously approved the change as a matter of administrative policy after legislation proposing the same change failed this year in the City Council.

City officials said the change does not apply to "positions of trust," including police officers as well as employees who work with children, have access to personal records of other employees or residents, or handle money.

"It's an opportunity to open up new avenues for people to start their lives over," said Mayor Sheila Dixon, who voted in favor of the measure yesterday. "There is sometimes discrimination with an individual who has been convicted of a crime."

Baltimore officials said other cities, such as Boston and Chicago, have stopped asking job applicants about criminal history. Officials in those cities could not be reached to confirm whether that is the case.

Applications for city jobs have asked whether the candidate had ever been convicted of a crime - other than a minor traffic violation - and for an explanation of the conviction. Disclosing a prior conviction does not necessarily prohibit the applicant from receiving the job, but Dixon said it attaches a stigma.

About 21,000 people were on the city's payroll last year, though many of those were seasonal and part-time employees. It is not clear how many city employees are in "positions of trust."

Legislation to "ban the box" - which refers to the box former convicts must check on an application - was introduced in the City Council this year by council member Sharon Green Middleton.

The legislation was never scheduled for a hearing and died for lack of action at the end of the council term.

Middleton is married to Glenard S. Middleton Sr., a statewide leader in the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees - a union that represents many city workers.

"We were looking to get the people who had served their time an opportunity to apply for the city jobs," said Gladys B. Gaskins, director of the city's human resources department.

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