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Mayor Rawlings-Blake Signs 'Ban The Box' Bill

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- It's a controversial bill that could help ex-offenders land a job in Baltimore. On Thursday, Mayor Rawlings-Blake signs it into law.

Rick Ritter has more on the so-called "Ban the Box" bill.

The move bans a criminal background checkbox on some job applications. It's something the mayor labels critical in reducing unemployment in the city.

Signed, sealed and stamped with a powerful message. After months of controversy, the "Ban the Box" bill is now reality.

"This bill is about tearing down those barriers, breaking the barriers to employment," said Mayor Rawlings-Blake.

Nearly a month ago, council voted 10 to 4 to move forward with the bill after Councilman Nick Mosby sponsored the idea, stating that it would help with unemployment.

"At the end of the day, we have to figure out innovative ways of growing our city," said Mosby.

Unemployment in the city has improved over the past few months. A little more than 22,000 people were unemployed in March. That number dropped slightly in April.

"Specifically, in certain sections of our city. It's astronomically high," said Mosby.

With the mayor's signature Thursday, some private employers must now remove a box from job applications that states whether or not candidates have a criminal record. This, giving former criminals a better shot at getting their foot in the door.

"I believe it hindered me getting interviews," said Tia Lewis.

An ex-offender herself, Tia Lewis says she now has a second chance.

"It really opens some doors for me," she said.

One potential downside is without knowing a candidate's criminal history early in the process, it could force some businesses to shy away from hiring within the city.

"For employers who say we simply won't hire in Baltimore City anymore, that's just completely ridiculous," said Mosby.

But Mayor Rawlings-Blake says all controversy aside, this move is about growing the entire city.

"This is about making sure that we put Baltimore back to work," the mayor said.

The Mayor tells WJZ if the business community thinks there are ways to improve the bill, they will continue to work with them.

Employers will not be required to hire someone with a criminal record, but companies could be penalized for discriminatory hiring practices.

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