December 2, 2014 the Columbia City Council unanimously voted to prohibit city and private employers from asking about or investigating applicants’ criminal histories until after a conditional job offer has been made. See a newspaper article here. The box on a job application form asking if the applicant has ever been convicted of a crime is now banned.
This step, the first for any Missouri city, is intended to:
- Level the playing field for offenders
- Reduce violent crime
- Reduce recidivism by having more offenders employed
- Compensate for the “flaws” in our criminal justice system
- Reduce the cost of enforcement and increase tax revenue
- Benefit society as a whole
So what’s not to like?
In our opinion just about everything. This is a horrible example of feel-good government activism and abusive overreach, a precedent for even more far-reaching legislation. Regulating essential aspects of business practice is not a legitimate function of local government. It is not government’s business to level playing fields, particularly those tilted by criminal activity. In our opinion it is not a bad thing for criminals released from prison not to have an easy time finding a job. Bad decisions should have consequences. What will happen if this experiment in social justice should be seen not to work? Will we then see affirmative action quotas? Reduction in violent crime by waving magic wands of unproven legislation is wishful thinking. Crime can be reduced – but never eliminated – by incarceration and hiring more police officers. These are costs of essential government services, not frills to be reduced. As for the ‘flaws’ in our justice system, this is liberal twaddle. For some it is too easy to blame the ‘system’ and not the criminal.