Letter: Ban the box, support passage of H.261

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Editor of the Reformer:

My wife and I have co-owned a gym and personal training facility in southern Vermont for three years. Our combined experience and success in the health and fitness sector paired with our highly personalized consulting allows us to cultivate lasting relationships with clients to help them achieve their goals and better their health and overall wellbeing.

Part of my decision to start a business came from my difficulties finding employment post-incarceration. At the age of 17, I was convicted of a crime and spent some time in jail. After being released, I had a difficult time finding a job and couldn't even get past the initial application to get an interview. Most applications required me to check a box indicating that I had been previously convicted of a crime, and I attribute my checking this box to the lack of call-backs from these establishments.

My inability to get a job made it incredibly difficult to get back on my feet and readjust to life post-incarceration. There has been movement in Vermont and across the nation to enact legislation to "ban the box," which would prohibit employers from asking applicants about criminal conviction history on an initial application. More than 100 cities and counties and a total of 20 states across the country have already enacted such policies. Last year in Vermont, Governor Shumlin signed an executive order to ban the box for state jobs. Just last week, a bill to "ban the box" on the majority of applications in Vermont passed the House with a 138-5 vote.

I strongly believe that a criminal history shouldn't dictate a person's future success and ability to find employment. Readjusting to life post-incarceration already poses many challenges for individuals and families. If we can begin to remove some of the barriers to reemployment, such as conviction disclosure boxes on applications, we will be taking a step forward in alleviating some of the discrimination that exists for individuals with criminal history and ensuring that everyone has a fair chance at employment.

Jason Aprea, co-owner of BBetter Inc., Brattleboro, March 30



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