UPPER MARLBORO—The Prince George’s County Council unanimously passed legislation Wednesday that officials hope will help give those with criminal backgrounds a better shot at getting a second chance.
The legislation, sponsored by Councilman Obie Patterson and dubbed by officials as the “Ban the Box bill,” prevents businesses from conducting a criminal background check or inquiring about a job applicant’s criminal record prior to the conclusion of the individual’s first interview.
“This legislation is about second chances,” Patterson said. “I would like to thank the organizations who worked with us to create this.”
Patterson said the bill makes the county a better place and helps to keep people out of jail by allowing people to immerse themselves back into society. By keeping people out of jail, Patterson said, the county will be able to commit more money to overcoming budget deficits.
The bill, County Councilwoman Karen Toles said, is a good move for the county.
“This council is moving in the right direction and this county is moving in the right direction, in giving people second chances, recognizing that people make mistakes and recognizing that we want our individuals to be employed,” Toles said. “This bill, I see, is another effort in moving in that positive direction.”
While the bill was difficult to craft, Toles said, it is essential for the county because it helps people. The county had to balance the desires of the business community with those of people looking to get jobs despite having criminal backgrounds.
“Dealing with social issues and helping the less fortunate is never a popular discussion when it comes to businesses,” Toles said. “I know it’s not easy. You think that, sometimes, we want to hurt businesses. But as you travel throughout the county, the council members have to look at the social issues that impact us.”
Councilman Derrick Leon Davis commended Patterson for his “patience, persistence and professionalism” in crafting the bill.
“It wasn’t easy. It took a lot of collaboration, a lot of commitment and even more consensus building,” Davis said. “I often liken this process to making sausage. If you get the sausage before it’s ready, it doesn’t taste good.”
Councilman Eric Olson said he is thankful to Patterson and the groups involved with passing the bill, including the NAACP, the Job Opportunities Task Force and the Republican Central Committee of Prince George’s County . The bill, Olson said, will help prevent individuals who commit crimes from repeating their behaviors.
“We all know that the best thing to combat recidivism is a job and a sense of self worth,” Olson said. “Being able to proud to get up in the morning and go to work and to contribute to society, contribute to your family. This is an important milestone.”
The bill will open up doors to the working world for young people who have been involved in criminal incidents, said Councilwoman Andrea Harrison. Her hope is young people will no longer be penalized for having a criminal history, and they will now be able to stay out of trouble by getting a job.
“There are many young people who may have had a minor infraction and they may have had a small run-in with the law,” Harrison said. “This impacts them as well. On behalf of those young individuals, I emphatically vote aye, and I thank Mr. Patterson for those young people as well.”