Senate Bill 96 provides a “fair chance” for applicants with prior arrests or convictions.
LOS LUNAS—Rep. Alonzo Baldonado (R-Los Lunas) cheered yesterday’s announcement that Senate Bill 96, legislation to “ban the box” on employment application forms in New Mexico, was signed into law by Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. The new law was the result of five years of collaborative effort by co-sponsors Baldonado and Sen. Bill O’Neill (D-Albuquerque).
SB 96 prohibits private employers from asking about an applicant’s arrest or conviction history on employment applications. Employers may take an applicant’s prior criminal record into account later in the hiring process, but only after first evaluating the applicant’s skills and qualifications for the job. Applicants who believe employers have violated the new requirements may file a complaint under the State’s Human Right Act. The new law mirrors the “fair chance” requirement for government applications in New Mexico that has been in place since 2010.
According to the National Employment Law Project, one in three adults has a prior arrest or conviction record. SB 96 gives applicants who have interacted with the criminal justice system a chance to have their application judged on merit and ability first.
The inability to get a job is a leading factor in inmate recidivism. Communities that have adopted similar “fair chance” policies have seen increased hiring rates for applicants with criminal records. Giving these applicants a good faith review of their job qualifications strengthens their chances of finding gainful employment and reintegrating into society.
“It’s a fact of life—people make mistakes. They should have a chance to rebuild their lives once they exit the criminal justice system. This law gives them that chance,” said Baldonado.
He continued, “I became involved in this effort in 2014 after I learned about the difficulties some people in my community had in getting a job after having a brush with the law. Holding down a job gives a person purpose and direction. It can be a powerful catalyst to turn one’s life around. I’m glad we are removing this unnecessary barrier for people who are trying to improve their lives.”
Baldonado praised the work of Joseph Shaw and Fathers Building Futures to advocate for “ban the box” legislation. Fathers Building Futures is an Albuquerque nonprofit that helps men build stable lives after their incarceration by providing job training and other programs. Shaw, a woodworking supervisor for Fathers Building Futures, spent many hours at the Roundhouse testifying to the importance of the bill.
The requirements of the new law will go into effect on July 1, 2019.