Legislation removes criminal history check box from most applications

Feb 13, 2013

Most employers would be barred from asking job applicants about their criminal records under a bill introduced Wednesday in the General Assembly.  Employers would still be able to run criminal background checks, they just wouldn't know about any criminal history based on the application. Backers of the bill are hoping the third attempt to get the bill passed will be successful.  

Four years ago John Prince found a job he thought he could do. He emailed a resume to the employer, got a call back 20 minutes later and that same afternoon was interviewed.  But the promise of a new job vanished when Prince was forced to admit on a job application that he’d been convicted of burglary, shoplifting and drug crimes.

Supporters gather at the Statehouse to lobby for legislation that would remove questions about criminal history on most applications
Credit Flo Jonic

“Riding that bus coming back I was like frustrated, heated,” says Prince. “I’ve been out 12 years and this box is still haunting me.”

The felony or misdemeanor “box” which job seekers are asked to complete on applications would be banned under a bill sponsored by Senator Harold Metts, a south Providence democrat.

“It ends up being a life sentence,” says Metts, “especially for people who are 18, 19 or in their early 20’s. You commit a crime and now you’re 30, 40 years old and you still can’t get a job because you’re being haunted by what you did in the past.”

The bill would not apply to people applying for teaching, child care or health care jobs.  Similar bills have failed to garner sufficient support the last two years.

(Editor's Note: This story was edited to clarify that employers can still run criminal background checks.)

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