One Step Closer to Banning the Box in Metro Nashville

Civil Service Commission Speakers 10-13-15

On October 13, 2015, the Metropolitan Nashville Civil Service Commission called a public hearing to hear from members of the public on implementation of a Ban the Box or “fair chance hiring” policy. Commissioners heard from numerous community leaders on why they support Ban the Box (pictured above). Supporters included people directly affected by the criminal justice system, ministers working with restorative justice and youth, nonprofit leaders facilitating prisoner reentry, lawyers, organizers, and activists. All spoke movingly of the importance of banning the box in Nashville and the impact it would have on people’s lives. All four commissioners (one of the five recently moved to a new position, leaving an open slot), as well as representatives from Metro Human Resources, spoke with affirmation about the good that would come from delaying inquiries into criminal convictions until someone has been interviewed and is a candidate for hire.

Following the guidelines and due process of the Commission, commissioners will vote on a Ban the Box proposal at their next meeting scheduled for Tuesday, November 10. While the fight is not quite over yet, our team is confident in a positive outcome. Please stay tuned over the next month for possible means of further support, and stay tuned on November 10 for what will hopefully be the final word on this phase of our campaign.

Democracy Nashville would like to extend its deepest thanks to those who spoke at the hearing, who signed letters of support, who helped us build a base of support (at least 9,500 people strong) over the course of the last year, and who have assisted in pushing Nashville closer to justice and equity.

Stay tuned!

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Ban the Box Update & Request for Support

On May 18, 2015, members of Democracy Nashville delivered approximately 9,500 signatures to the Metro Clerk in Nashville, TN. The city required 6,847 valid signatures from Davidson County voters for a referendum to make it to the August 2015 ballot. On June 11, the Davidson County Election Commission announced that they were able to verify only 5,902 of the 9,500 signatures submitted. According to a senior administrator with the Election Commission, the “majority” of the invalidated signatures were from registered voters who were purged from the voter rolls.

Despite the fact that our petition did not appear on the August 2015 ballot, our fight to Ban the Box in Nashville continues. In July, members of our team met with Metro Nashville’s Human Resources department to propose that they implement a Ban the Box policy for the city. Per official protocol, Metro HR put Ban the Box on the agenda for the August meeting of the Metro Nashville Civil Service Commission, which oversees all city hiring protocol. Our team developed information for the five commissioners and appeared before the Commission on August 11th. At their September 8th meeting, the Commission decided to call a public hearing for October in consideration of implementation of a Ban the Box policy for Metro Nashville government. At some point after the public hearing, the Commission will vote on the proposal.

As part of our continued effort, we are asking you to endorse a letter of support (see below) to the civil service commission, urging them to take action to Ban the Box on Metro government job applications. If you would like to sign the letter please email us by Monday, October 12 at bantheboxnashville@gmail.com with your name, as you would like it to appear on the letter, and community organization or church affiliation. In the meantime, we urge you to continue following our website and Facebook page and email blasts in the days and weeks ahead. Thank you for your continued effort and support to Ban the Box!  

Sincerely,
Democracy Nashville Team

https://democracynashville.wordpress.com | http://www.facebook.com/bantheboxnashville
bantheboxnashville@gmail.com | 615-802-8453

Letter of Support

October 13, 2015 

Metropolitan Nashville Civil Service Commission
404 James Robertson Parkway Suite 1000 Nashville, TN 37219 

Dear Civil Service Commission: 

As residents of Nashville, members of various community organizations and faith leaders who journey alongside the people in our city, where residents struggle under the weight of poverty, joblessness, and discrimination, we have seen firsthand the despair of individuals who have spent time behind bars. Many of these individuals return to their communities with great hope only to face closed doors again and again. 

As you know, we live in a nation that processes more people through its criminal justice system than any other nation, where people who are labeled “criminals” are unfairly denied a place in our communities and workplaces. We know from the lives of mothers and fathers and sons and daughters that lack of opportunity leads to despair, which often leads back to prison. Without access to quality jobs, members of our community that have spent time in the criminal justice system cannot thrive as they deserve. 

One of the foremost barriers to quality jobs for people who have served time are the questions on applications regarding criminal convictions. Studies in cities across our country have shown that the removal of such questions enables employers to get to know the skills and capacities of applicants, rather than immediately dismissing them based on their past, which leads to more people working, resulting in stronger economies and neighborhoods. Because questions regarding criminal background discriminate against people with histories in the criminal justice system, we recognize that Ban the Box policies ensure that people who are ready to turn their lives around actually have the opportunity to do so through gainful employment.

Given the widespread adoption of Ban the Box policies in more than 100 cities and 18 states, we firmly believe that adoption of such a policy in Metro Nashville will make our communities stronger, allowing our economy to thrive and ultimately making Nashville a premier city to live and work in for all people. Thank you for your consideration. 

Sincerely,
[Name, Affiliation]