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“Ban the box” law just one aspect of justice reform efforts

Tennessee lawmakers have passed a series of justice reform bills, including a “ban the box” law.

According to KRON 4 News, Tennessee has passed a law that prevents state employers from asking job applicants if they have a criminal record on job applications. The so-called "ban the box" bill is designed to help those who have a criminal record move on with their lives following their release. Supporters of the new law say it could also help reduce recidivism rates. They also point out that the "ban the box" bill was just one piece of legislation that was passed this year dealing with criminal justice reform.

Banning the box

The new law prohibits state employers from asking a prospective employee about his or her criminal history early in the job application process. Essentially, this new law means that when filling out a job application, an applicant cannot be asked whether he or she has a criminal record. However, the employer can still conduct a background check later on in the hiring process. Furthermore, the new law only applies to state government agencies, meaning that private companies can still ask applicants about their criminal histories.

While the effect of the new law may be limited, since it will only apply to those applying for state government jobs, it is a step in the right direction, according to its supporters. Estimates from the U.S. Department of Justice suggest that three quarters of released prisoners re-offend within five years of their release, but that employment can significantly reduce that rate of recidivism.

Criminal justice reforms

As The Tennessean reports, the "ban the box" law is just one piece of a broader criminal justice reform movement in Tennessee. In total, seven bills were passed by the state legislature this year that attempt to make the criminal justice system fairer. Another recently passed law, for example, makes it easier for people to have their criminal records expunged if they have been victims of mistaken identity.

Other recently passed bills are designed to focus on ways to rethink the administration of juvenile justice in the state and to study ways of helping those who have been convicted of a felony reenter the workforce. Supporters of these measures point out that 90 percent of inmates at state-run facilities will eventually be released, making it imperative that they get the help they need to reintegrate into society.

Criminal defense

Being convicted of a criminal offense can be devastating. While the above measures are designed to provide some relief for people who have a criminal record, those measures are still very limited in the number of people they will actually help. The above story shows how important it is to try to avoid a conviction in the first place. A criminal defense attorney can help those who have been charged with a crime, including by helping them uphold their rights and offering guidance about what decisions may best protect their long-term interests.

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