Bowles: Mississippi needs to ‘Ban the Box’ 

Currently%2C+job+and+public+college+applicants+must+check+a+box+if+they%27ve+been+convicted+of+a+felony.+

WhisperToMe, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

Currently, job and public college applicants must check a box if they’ve been convicted of a felony.

Luke Bowles, Managing Editor

Last week, a Mass Incarceration class at Mississippi College hosted a “Ban the Box” protest event on the college’s campus in Clinton. Not only do I hope this petition draws awareness to the hardships faced by formerly incarcerated persons, I hope this bill is reintroduced into the Mississippi legislature as soon as possible. 

“Ban the Box” is colloquial language for removing the box that requires job and public college applicants to disclose whether they have been convicted of a felony. 

Mass Incarceration class student Lexie Daigle expanded on why the petition initiative was held. 

“After studying both the history of mass incarceration and reading first-hand accounts of its consequences, we decided collectively to tackle a major issue that most individuals are not familiar with: banning the box,” Daigle said. 

Not only is “the box”  morally abhorrent, but it also disproportionately affects minority communities in our state. 

Black Mississippians make up a prison population 19% higher than their state population proportion, and Latino Mississippians are overrepresented in incarceration percentages by 9% in the same manner. Clearly, the current policy of requiring public employee job or college applicants specifically to disclose their criminal history is direct government-sanctioned racism. 

A “Ban the Box” bill was presented in the Mississippi Legislature in 2020 but later died in conference.

The bill that died last year would have required public employers to remove the box from the beginning of applications and would later give the applicant a chance to personally talk to their potential future employer and disclose their criminal history before a background check is performed. This process would allow a human connection to be made instead of simply checking an individual into a literal box, and I would much prefer it to the current situation.

Although a “tough on crime” approach is traditionally a conservative attitude, Republican Lieutenant Governor Delbert Hosemann has expressed support for the bill. “I go back to the Bible, let the first one who has not sinned cast the first stone,” Hosemann said. He also said formerly incarcerated persons shouldn’t be automatically kicked out of a job application process because of a mistake from their past when they have already paid the price.

I couldn’t agree more. I would specifically urge the many Christians in our state to take up this cause as well and spread the compassion and message of forgiveness Jesus shared. 

Daigle also elaborated on how her religious beliefs affect her views on this bill.

“As a Christian campus, we hold ourselves to the standard that redemption is possible through Christ, and as such, everyone applying to our campus should feel welcome and not be judged solely on their past,” Daigle said. 

On the same note, Hosemann also mentioned the positive economic benefits of banning the box and how currently qualified individuals are excluded from our economy due to their past mistakes regardless of their current qualifications and actions.

Not only is the box racist, but it is also harmful to our economy and spreads the very opposite of Christian compassion and forgiveness. I see no reason why any Mississippian should not join me in urging the Mississippi legislature to reconsider this bill and finally ban the box.

Daigle said banning the box would bring needed change to university hiring practices.

“In essence, we want to make sure everyone is treated with the same respect and fairness, including previously incarcerated people. We believe that Christ’s love runs deeper than just the surface, and we desire a campus built on those values.”

I could not think of a better way to achieve that view of equality than banning the box.