President Obama bans the box for federal jobs

President Obama signed an Executive Order to Ban the Box for all prospective federal employees. This represents a significant step in the past decade of organizing by directly impacted people. What began as a San Francisco ordinance proposed by All of Us or None, to give people a chance at an interview, has ultimately gone viral. This latest step has been the focus of the Formerly Incarcerated, Convicted People, Families Movement (FICPFM), and received an incredible lift from John Legend’s plea for all Americans to sign a Ban the Box petition.


FICPFM members delivered 130,000 petitions, and called on President Obama to Ban the Box, one week ago.

Last week, VOTE Executive Director Norris Henderson and other members of the FICPFM delivered over 100,000 signatures to the White House. The President has promised that this number commands a response, and he held to it. The FICPFM was formed as an alliance of grassroots organizations by leaders who have served time in prison and/or traveled long distances to visit loved ones for just an hour or two. Tens of millions of Americans live under vast interlocking laws that impact every aspect of life, from job opportunities to housing discrimination, education to health care. Where 80 million people have convictions, their families also deal with the lifetime consequences.

Details remain to be seen, but as the chief executive of the nation’s largest employer, President Obama has followed the path of Koch Industries, Target, and others who have recognized that it is poor public policy (and bad business) to either automatically reject an application with the box checked, (“Have you ever been convicted of a felony?”) or to subconsciously plant the seed of rejection by reading that information before making any other assessment of a person’s abilities.

Although a momentous step in the struggle to restore citizenship and equality after serving punishment for a conviction, considerable work remains to be done. The president should take the next logical step and extend Ban the Box to all federal contractors. If they want to business for America, they need to adopt non-discrimination hiring standards. America needs a cultural shift to pave the way for genuine structural change. President Obama has continued a lineage of George Bush recognizing the need for rehabilitation (Second Chance Act) and Bill Clinton’s recent apology that he “made the problem worse” through over-incarceration. Our next president must move towards a more constructive approach to the oppressive punishment regime created over the past half-century.

All organizations of the FICPFM remain committed to local, state, and national reforms based on the help our people need, rather than the help someone else wants to give us.

About Bruce Reilly

Bruce Reilly is the Deputy Director of Voice of the Ex-Offender in New Orleans, LA. He is a graduate of Tulane Law School and author of NewJack's Guide to the Big House. Much of his writing can be found on
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1 Response to President Obama bans the box for federal jobs


    After listening to a ThisAmericanLife podcast interview with Cornealious Michael “Mike” Anderson III and his wife, learning how he transformed himself from a angry, disturbed young person into an average, peaceful, working family man, I believe most people who crossed the line and acquire criminal records should be given the opportunity to prove they’ve matured and earnestly want to be responsible.

    However, banning the box is only a band-aid that does not address the more serious social issue for learning why some people become depressed, angry, frustrated, mildly or significantly emotionally disturbed people who often violently or non-violently harm their/our peaceful neighbors?

    In my opinion the serious social issue glaring us all in the face is America’s expanding and shameful **National Epidemic of Childhood Abuse and Neglect, Poverty**, that for more than two generations has deprived untold numbers of American kids from experiencing and enjoying a fairly happy American kid childhood with *Safe Streets* to travel and play on.

    **Child Abuse and Neglect** that is primarily responsible for populating our prisons with depressed, angry, frustrated, undisciplined, unpredictable, sometimes suicidal teens and adults full of resentment for irresponsibly being introduced to a life of hardships and struggles.

    **Early Childhood Abuse and Neglect** that often leads depressed, sometimes suicidal **(NY Times May 18, 2015 – Rise in Suicide by Black Children Surprises Researchers)** children to develop into depressed, angry, frustrated, unpredictable, sometimes suicidal teens and adults lacking empathy and compassion for others, though needing to vent their pent up negative emotions, often causing emotional and physical harm to peaceful people…instead of venting their anger, resentment and pain on the immature single moms and/or dads who introduced them to a life of pain and struggle by irresponsibly building a family before acquiring the practical skills, *PATIENCE* and means to successfully raise and nurture a developing young child who matures into a fairly happy responsible teen and adult with mostly fond memories of their childhood.

    A thought.

    During the early to mid 80s young Brooklyn, NY rap performers were selling their CDs from car trunks, sharing rap performances with their fans that referred to females as less than human *itches and *hores unworthy of respect.

    Less than a decade earlier virtually all American music artists of African descent were writing beautiful, timeless music adoring, admiring, praising, wooing, lamenting, loving and respecting the maternal half of our population.

    Today many mega-popular rap performers continue characterizing our moms, sisters, grandmas, daughters, aunts and nieces as less than human creatures unworthy of respect. 😦

    Black *(Children’s)* Lives Matter; Take Pride In Parenting; End Our National Epidemic of Child Abuse and Neglect; End Community Violence, Police Fear & Educator’s Frustrations


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