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State Lawmakers: Criminal History Box On Applications Needs To Go

DENVER (CBS4) - State lawmakers are taking up a bill that would ban criminal history questions on job applications. Peter Dybing is among those supporting the so-called "Ban the Box" bill.

A college graduate, retired fire chief and safety director at a large nonprofit, Dybing says he couldn't get a job at Domino's Pizza if he tried because he would have to check the box on the application which asks if he's been convicted of a crime.

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Dybing has a felony record from 40 years ago.

"I went through the process of finding applications, did a bunch of them and never heard back. Then I sorted almost 400 applications and disregarded every one that had the question."

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Peter Dybing (credit: CBS)

He says he's lucky that someone gave him a second chance, but he says many people with criminal records pay for life.

"You can't build a family. You can't buy a home. You can't get a car. You can't do anything. The temptations are extreme to think this is a hopeless situation."

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Research shows the inability to find a job is the single biggest factor in determining whether someone will re-offend. It's why Rep.'s Leslie Herod (D-Denver) and Jovan Melton (D-Aurora) introduced a bill to ban questions about criminal history on job applications.

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Rep. Jovan Melton (credit: CBS)

"When we have people that aren't able to at least meet those basic needs," said Melton, "they end up turning back to a life of crime and we don't want to see that happen."

State lawmakers convened for the 2012 legislative session on Wednesday morning. (credit: CBS)

The lawmakers say 1.5 million people in Colorado have criminal records.

"They are walking around with a scarlet letter for the rest of their lives regardless of what they've done to make amends, and that's not the way we need to go as a society," said Herod.

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Rep. Leslie Herod (credit: CBS)

The bill still allows employers to run background checks and ask about criminal history in interviews, but it gives those like Dybing a foot in the door.

"There is no forgiveness in our nation right now and this is one small step towards forgiveness, towards knowing that people can change their lives."

Criminal history questions are already banned on state government applications and 12 other states have passed similar laws. While the bill has failed twice before at the State Capitol, this year it has support from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle and no opposition from business groups.

It is a first step by lawmakers to help people with criminal records rebuild their lives. There will also be a bill this session to remove criminal history questions on college applications.

The bill passed its first hurdle in the House Judiciary Committee, 8-3, Tuesday night.

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