Should we “Ban the Box” or Nah? Cory Ford is a graduate of my Alma Mater (University of Alabama at Birmingham). He recently completed his bachelor’s degree in the Spring of 2015. He holds a BA in Sociology with a minor in social work, but he is a felon.
As a child, Cory was bounced around from group home to group home before finally landing with his grandparents in the Mt. Washington area of Cincinnati. By the time he was 17, Cory’s grandfather had been incarcerated before and his grandmother had suffered a severe stroke.
One evening in 2008, he and a couple of friends were headed to Popeye’s chicken to get free food from a girl they all knew. As they got near what is currently known as the The Bridge (formally know as London Bridges Bar) they encountered a drunk patron. The adult male started to provoke the teens by yelling racial slurs at them. “I was hot headed,” Cory admitted, and a physical altercation ensued between the two of them. “I wanted to embarrass him, I took his wallet and chain and threw it in the street.” Cory explained to me.
Eventually, an investigation led the police to Cory. He was charged with robbery. Although he didn’t keep the chain or wallet at the time of the incident, Cory had forcefully snatched the guys belongings, broken his nose and damaged his eye socket. Robbery is considered a second degree felony in many states, but it can become a first degree felony if the robber uses a weapon, attempts to kill or inflicts serious bodily injury.
Cory was locked up and he served his time. Upon re-entering society, he paid his restitution off early and moved to Birmingham, Alabama. He took a placement test and enrolled into UAB. Cory quickly became an asset to the campus. He worked with the Multicultural and Diversity Programs where he served as the Director of Race and Ethnicity and as a student programmer; there, Cory oversaw the Free Food For Thought program. Cory was also a Peer Mentor with the Blazer Male Excellence Network. Cory has also volunteered in the community, working with Habitat for Humanity, The Ronald McDonald House and also speaking at the Birmingham Juvenile Justice Center.
It wasn’t always easy. At one point he had to take a break in order to keep up with his financial commitments, but he had strong support from the faculty and staff at UAB. Now that Cory has graduated, all he wants is a decent paying job and a place to live with his name on the lease. However, that night from 2008 still haunts him.
Every time he applies for work, he has to check a box that identifies him as a felon at the beginning of the application process. Many perspective employers never hear Cory’s full story; therefore, he hasn’t had an opportunity to start his career. “Right now since I have a felony on my record, I have a hard time getting my name on a lease.” Cory explained that potential renters are hesitant about getting into contractual agreements with felons.
Cory is filing for an Executive Clemency from the Governor of Ohio to pardon him for his past as he seeks to build his future. He is working with the Legal Aid of Greater Cincinnati, and they recommend he get a petition signed on his behalf.
We are keeping our fingers crossed for Cory as he attempts to get clemency. Others like Corey are hoping more places adopt “Ban-The-Box”. “Ban-The-Box” is a movement that seeks to have the check box asking whether or not a candidate has ever been convicted of a felony removed from the initial application. This new law would require that hiring managers put off asking about a candidate’s criminal history until after a provisional job offer has been extended. This way, potential employees like Cory get a chance to fairly compete for jobs and tell their personal stories in detail. They aren’t just tossed aside because they committed a felony.
Currently, there have been over 100 cities and counties and 11 states that have already actually passed “Ban-The-Box”, preventing employers from asking about prior criminal history on job applications before interviews. Activists are hoping that by banning the box, employers will give ex-offenders a better chance of finding employment. From my understanding, the box is still placed on some applications because it is simply unavoidable to protect children, the elderly, etc…
I’ve always known that felons had a hard time getting a job, but I didn’t know that they have a hard time trying to find a place to live too. Cory is looking to get married soon and become a stepfather to three kids. How do we expect him to get on a straight and narrow path without the proper opportunities?