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January 20, 2020

"'Ban the Box' Policies and Criminal Recidivism"

The title of this post is the title of this new empirical paper authored by Ryan Sherrard available via SSRN. Here is its abstract:

Employment has long been seen as a mechanism for reducing criminal recidivism. As such, many states and municipalities have tried to increase the employment prospects of ex-offenders through "Ban the Box" (BTB) policies, making it illegal to ask about an individual's criminal history on a job application.  There are, however, questions as to how effective these policies are at helping ex-offenders successfully stay out of prison.  In addition, recent research has shown that BTB policies may lead employers to racially discriminate in hiring.  Using administrative prison data, this paper examines the direct effect of BTB policies on rates of criminal recidivism.  I find that while BTB policies don't appear to reduce criminal recidivism overall, these policies may be exacerbating racial disparities.  In particular, I show that being released into a labor market with a BTB policy is associated with higher rates of recidivism for black ex-offenders, with little to no effect for white ex-offenders.  This result is robust to a number of specifications and sub-samples.

January 20, 2020 at 02:25 PM | Permalink


I object to the term "ex-offender," as it implicitly defines out of existence those of us who were falsely convicted. How am I supposed to truthfully answer a question as to whether I'm an ex-offender?

Posted by: Keith Lynch | Jan 20, 2020 10:53:36 PM

Because trust is essential to the employer-employee relationship, employers should be allowed to ask this question. The conversation "if you did this before, why can I trust you now?" deserves to be had. The idea that it is impossible to get a job after answering yes is simply not true. The fact that it is more difficult . . . well it should be. Crime has continuing consequences, and a reminder of that after release is useful.


Posted by: William C Jockusch | Jan 23, 2020 9:36:18 AM

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