Last month, I picked up a newspaper in Kansas and read a headline which I found deeply disconcerting (and symptomatic of a misguided movement manifesting nationwide, so you very well may have seen a similar headline in your local newspaper).
It read: “Governor Jeff Colyer signs order to ‘ban the box’ on criminal history for state jobs.”
What it meant was that the Governor had ordered hiring managers in (most) state agencies to remove from job applications any and all questions asking prospective employees whether or not they’ve been convicted of crimes. Essentially, the Governor had put felons on equal footing with law-abiding Kansans (and with law-abiding Americans from other states) when applying for jobs in Kansas — and these weren’t just any jobs; these were jobs in government, jobs for which a history of respect for the rule of law arguably is more than usually desirable.
The rationale for such “ban the box” initiatives is that convicts who’ve “paid their debts to society” need opportunities to secure gainful employment, lest they return to lives of crime. And proponents thereof will point out that law-enforcement agencies still can screen out applicants with criminal records and that hiring managers in other agencies still can ask applicants about criminal records later in their hiring processes, when those applicants have opportunities to explain why past convictions supposedly aren’t relevant to the jobs being sought in the present. Now, if that strikes you as the kind of misguided thinking which you might expect to find in California’s state government but not necessarily in that of deep-red Kansas, then this shrink is right with you — in fact, this shrink thinks it’s lunacy.
Law-abiding citizens deserve advantages over convicted criminals when applying for jobs, especially jobs with their government. Someone who hasn’t been a law-abiding adult should have difficulty securing gainful employment, and witnessing/anticipating such difficulty should be an important deterrent to committing crimes in the first place. Every criminal conviction is relevant to every job because past behavior generally is the best predictor of future behavior; hence, past disregard for society’s rules and for the rights or property of others is reason for a prospective employer to be wary of potential future disregard for an organization’s rules and for the rights and property of the organization, its personnel, and those whom it serves.
And the way for society to deter convicts from reverting to lives of crime is not to help them get jobs. After all, while I’m not a convict, I, too, could’ve decided to commit crimes if I hadn’t found a job (and if I believed crime to be an acceptable alternative living, which I don’t — I respect the rule of law), yet society didn’t help me get a job, and it probably didn’t help you get one either (which is fine with me — I believe in personal responsibility). The way to deter recidivism is to make it a nonviable option for convicts, by making the consequences of additional offenses severe enough (e.g., “three strikes” and “hard 40” laws — and I’d be fine with making those “two strikes” and “hard life” laws) that they’ll typically do any lawful work — no matter how menial, no matter how dirty, no matter how unenjoyable — before they’ll take chances on those consequences.
Bring back the box!
Brian Russell wanted to learn how people could live together as peacefully and prosperously as possible, so he studied what makes us tick (and got a Ph.D. in clinical psychology), how public policy keeps us in line (and got a law degree), and what motivates us to do our best (and got an M.B.A.). Then, he put theory to the test, practicing both psychology and law, starting his own small businesses, consulting with business leaders and lawmakers, and traveling the world comparing what does and doesn’t work in 40 societies. Now, he shares his expertise in people, public policy, and productivity on national television and radio, in his book, "Stop Moaning, Start Owning: How Entitlement Is Ruining America and How Personal Responsibility Can Fix It," and here on Newsmax. Learn more at DrBrianRussell.com. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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