Ban the Box New Jersey

New Jersey Bans the Box

On March 1, 2015, New Jersey’s Opportunity to Compete Act went into effect, making it the sixth state to prohibit employers from requiring a criminal background check during the first stages of the hiring process.

The effort to outlaw the practice, popularly known as the “ban the box” campaign, applies to all employers with 15 or more employees and threatens fines of up Ban the Box New Jerseyto $10,000 for repeat violations. “Ban the box,” which is a reference to the “criminal history” checkbox on many traditional job applications, is an attempt to curb hiring discrimination and make it easier for former prisoners and those with criminal records to reintegrate into society through gainful employment.

Advocates for the law cite the United States’ record high incarceration rate, alongside the fact that as many as 80 percent of inmates are incarcerated for drug-related offenses as a result of a War on Drugs many see as failed.

State Senator and proponent of the Opportunity to Compete Act Sandra Cunningham (D-Jersey City), said that the measure is, “not about hand-outs or giveaways, but rather responsibility. The text of the legislation is summed in a phrase: competing, win or lose, on your own merits.”

“Everyone deserves a second chance in New Jersey,” said Republican governor Chris Christie when he signed the bill into law.

Of course, not everyone is pleased about the law. Many Republicans see it as a restriction on employers’ freedom to make informed hiring decisions, and a costly administrative burden.

“At a time when government is increasing the minimum wage and creating a confusing, unworkable and costly healthcare system under Obamacare, the last thing businesses need is more onerous regulations,” said New Jersey Assemblyman Parker Space, a member of the Assembly Labor Committee.

The law is part of a sweeping trend of reforms in the country and New Jersey, including the bail reform measure that was signed into law by Gov. Christie last year, and Senator Cory Booker’s national campaign to repeal what he sees as the worst aspects of the War on Drugs.

Whatever the criminal justice system ends up looking like, if you end up on the wrong side of the law in New Jersey, call Chance BailBonds to get help and get home fast.

New Jersey Senator Cory Booker has called for criminal justice reform, spearheading the REDEEM Act and openly criticizing the War on Drugs.

Obama and Booker Set Sights on Criminal Justice Reform

In last month’s State of the Union address, President Obama called on “Democrats and Republicans, community leaders and law enforcement, to reform America’s criminal justice system so that it protects and serves us all.”

New Jersey Senator Cory Booker has called for criminal justice reform, spearheading the REDEEM Act and openly criticizing the War on Drugs.

Sen. Cory Booker

The President’s call for reforms was prompted by civil unrest surrounding recent events in Ferguson, MO, Staten Island, NY, and elsewhere. But where Obama was content to issue vague calls to action, leaving the heavy lifting to Congress and local leaders, New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, with whom the President has spoken on issues of reform, is willing to get specific.

Booker has been an outspoken critic of the War on Drugs in the past, citing racial disparities in arrests and calling for marijuana possession to be punishable only by a small fine.

“We in America are paying an outrageous amount of money” to incarcerate non-violent offenders, Booker said in a call to reporters. “One of the best ways to boost the economy is to reduce government spending when it’s unnecessary.”

Booker also formed an unlikely alliance with libertarian Senator Rand Paul last year to sponsor the REDEEM Act, a bill that would help shift tax dollars from criminal punishment of drug offenders to getting them better prepared to find work and move on with their lives. The bill, among other things, would make it possible for people to seal their non-violent criminal records from employers and others, return welfare benefits to non-violent offenders, and keep minors out of the adult justice system.

“Our country’s misguided criminal justice policies have placed an economic drag on communities… and on our nation’s global competitiveness — all while making us less, not more, safe,” Booker has said.

The REDEEM Act died before getting to committee, but Senators Paul and Booker are both still active in Congress, and anxious for change. With President Obama echoing their concerns, what the future holds for criminal justice in New Jersey and America is anyone’s guess.

If you can’t wait for Congress, and need help navigating the New Jersey criminal justice system today, call Chance BailBonds at (877) 647-5731.