Posted: 4:17 p.m. Friday, Aug. 29, 2014

Law could put more convicted felons to work in Atlanta

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"Box Ban" seeks to help people with convicted felonies find work photo
Atlanta City Council member Kwanza Hall has introduced new legislation to help people convicted of felonies find work in the city of Atlanta. If passed, he hopes the legislation will help level the playing field.

ATLANTA —

A new push seeks to allow more people with felony convictions to work for the city of Atlanta.

New legislation proposes removing the check box asking applicants whether they were ever convicted of a felony.

It is already a human resources practice to not ask applicants up front if they have ever been convicted of a felony, but proposed legislation would make it law. Every vendor and contractor with the city would have the same policy if the legislation is passed.

The proposed legislation still has to be voted on by the city of Atlanta.

Channel 2’s Erin Coleman spoke with 26-year-old Mario, who asked to be identified by only his first name. He said he hopes the legislation passes. Mario has several felonies on his record, including one for armed robbery.

He said every time he applied for a job, he was turned down.

“I’ve never gotten an application job. I always get construction. Stuff like that. I never got an application job because I always try to tell the truth,” said Mario.

“I see folks get hired over me because of the charge I got,” said Mario.

Atlanta City Council member Kwanza Hall introduced the new legilation and said he hopes it will level the playing field if passed.

He said banning the box allows otherwise qualified applicants to make it further through the interview process, at which point they would have to explain their criminal history.

“It could be potentially controversial, but actually there are already other cities that have already enacted both pieces of this legislation,” said Brown.

Ricky Brown owns Next Step Staffing, a company that places those with criminal convictions with jobs. He spent time in prison for a drug charge.

“I came home from prison after serving 13 years off a 15-year sentence and couldn’t get a job,” said Brown.

He said that is why he started his staffing company. He now has 6,000 men and women with criminal records who he is helping to place in jobs.

“It’s not going away when you’re talking about 700,000 now ex-offenders released from jails every year nationwide,” said Brown.

In Atlanta and Fulton County, 2,400 are released from jails and prisons every year, according to the legislation. 

“We’ve got to do something because at the end of the day they’re in your house; they’re down the street; they’re in your neighborhood. They’re everywhere,” said Brown.

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