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Ban the Box

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Good news from a Pennsylvania court.

A court in Pennsylvania on Wednesday struck down a state law that imposed a lifetime ban from employment on as many as 200,000 people with criminal records in the state.

A unanimous seven-judge panel ruled that part of the state’s Older Adult Protective Services Act was unconstitutional because it was too broad in delineating the types of past crimes that disqualified people from jobs that involve caring for the elderly and other kinds of long-term care.

The law “makes no provision for consideration of any other factor, such as the nature of the crime, the facts surrounding the conviction, the time elapsed since the conviction, evidence of the individual’s rehabilitation, and the nature and requirements of the job,” Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt wrote for the court.

“The employee’s criminal history is the single and overriding factor that a potential employer may consider,” she added.

Given the race of so many of these people banned from work, this is not only an issue of labor justice and prisoner justice but of racial justice. Pennsylvania was contributing to the New Jim Crow through this law. The real life impact of this terrible law is awful:

In April, NPR profiled Tyrone Peake, one of the men challenging the law. Peake’s 1981 conviction for riding in a stolen car prevented him from obtaining full-time work as a caregiver.

“I’ve been fired from three jobs because [of] having a criminal record,” Peake said at the time. “And my record is like 32 years old, and I haven’t been in trouble since then.”

Destroying someone’s life for a mistake they made in the past (assuming they even made that mistake given the number of innocent people in prison, is just a terrible policy.

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