* As we discussed Tuesday, Gov. Quinn issued an administrative order the other day removing a box from state job applications which indicated whether or not the applicant had been convicted of a crime. Agency employers are free to ask about applicants’ past during job interviews and are still free to conduct background checks. The “ban the box” push has succeeded in getting this done in several other states.
* The News Gazette editorial board doesn’t like the idea…
Proponents argue that minorities suffer disproportionately under the mandatory disclosure rule because they are arrested and imprisoned in greater numbers than whites. That claim is supported by the numbers, but people who get in trouble with the law aren’t selected at random.
They make trouble for themselves, one consequence being that their brushes with the law make them less attractive as employees. [Emphasis added.]
* It’s no secret that the national drug war has focused on minorities. Even though whites have higher substance use/abuse rates, blacks are arrested way more often…
Nearly 20 percent of whites have used cocaine, compared with 10 percent of blacks and Latinos, according to a 2011 survey from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration — the most recent data available.
Higher percentages of whites have also tried hallucinogens, marijuana, pain relievers like OxyContin, and stimulants like methamphetamine, according to the survey. Crack is more popular among blacks than whites, but not by much.
Still, blacks are arrested for drug possession more than three times as often as whites, according to a 2009 report from the advocacy group Human Rights Watch.
Of the 225,242 people who were serving time in state prisons for drug offenses in 2011, blacks made up 45 percent and whites comprised just 30 percent, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
Jamie Fellner, author of the Human Rights Watch report, offered an explanation for this discrepancy.
“The race issue isn’t just that the judge is going, ‘Oh, black man, I’m gonna sentence you higher,’” she said. “The police go into low-income minority neighborhoods and that’s where they make most of their drug arrests. If they arrest you, now you have a ‘prior,’ so if you plead or get arrested again, you’re gonna have a higher sentence. There’s a kind of cumulative effect.”
So, yeah, black people do the crimes, but they also do a disproportionate amount of the time when compared to whites.
* If this administrative order helps us unwind the drug war’s horrific personal costs, then it’s a good thing and the right thing to do.
Of course, if it’s about hiring some alderman’s nephew who can’t otherwise get past the initial application, then that’s another story.
* Back to the News Gazette editorial…
Unfortunately, politics has as much to do with Quinn’s action as the hiring process. Quinn’s order gives him another means of selling himself to black voters, who polls indicate are among his strongest supporters. He won’t need that voting bloc in the March 2014 primary election now that his main opponent, Chicago’s William Daley, has withdrawn from the race. But black voters could play a crucial role in Quinn’s fight to win re-election in November 2014, and it’s apparent that Quinn will use the vast powers of his office to win their support.
Good politics can be good government.