Ban the Box

Ban the Box Campaign

DC Rally_kids with BtB signs

Our Ban the Box campaign calls for removing the question and check box, “Have you been convicted by a court?” from applications for employment, housing, public benefits, insurance, loans and other services. These questions mean lifelong discrimination and exclusion because of a past arrest or conviction record.

All of Us or None is recognized nationwide as the originator and the core of a Ban the Box movement that is sweeping the country. As of August 2015, over 100 cities or counties, and 18 states have removed questions about conviction history from their public employment applications – over 100 million people across the country live in a jurisdiction where the box has been banned in some form or another. Check out our Ban the Box historical timeline to see how we and our allies have developed this movement.

Campaigns to Ban the Box around the U.S. have been started by a wide variety of people: formerly-incarcerated people, neighborhood legal services agencies, City Council members, Mayors, other elected officials. For any of our campaigns to win, it’s crucial that we build broad coalitions that recognize the grassroots voice of people who have been directly affected by this discrimination. The short video Enough is Enough also describes the campaign.

To start a campaign in your area, check out our Ban the Box Campaign Toolkit. Contact Jesse Stout, jesse@prisonerswithchildren.org or banthebox@prisonerswithchildren.org (or 415-625-7049) for a hard copy of our Ban the Box Organizers’ Toolkit and more information.

National Ban the Box Executive Order Campaign

Dorsey Hamdiya Lanice marching in DC

Our national Ban the Box campaign asks President Obama to issue an executive order and presidential memorandum to Ban the Box for private contractors doing business with the federal government. Federal contractors oversee around 30 million jobs; many are paid for with our tax dollars. By issuing an executive order to Ban the Box, President Obama could provide hundreds of thousandsof people the “decent shot” he says they deserve. Please consider downloading and printing our petition and gather signatures in your area.

To get involved with our executive order Ban the Box campaign, contact Dorsey Nunn at dorsey@prisonerswithchildren.org.

Ban the Box Legislation

All of Us or None and LSPC co-sponsored AB 218 in 2013, California legislation that implemented Ban the Box policies for public employment statewide. (See the AB 218 Implementation Guide, created by AOUON and National Employment Law Project.)

In 2014 we helped pass the San Francisco Fair Chance Act – legislation that has expanded local access to housing and jobs for people with conviction records. This model legislation sets standards for how and when employers and housing providers may consider conviction records.

Several cities and counties who have adopted Ban the Box also require that their vendors adopt the same hiring practices as for public employment, which further increases job opportunities.

Ban the Box Pledge for Non-Profits

Nationally, we are promoting the Fair Chance Pledge: banning the box at nonprofits and foundations. If you think your workplace might want to take the pledge, please visit http://www.bantheboxcampaign.org

By The Way President Obama, We Need to Fix This Too

President Barack Obama signs legislation in th...

Voting Is A Right, Not A Privilege by DORSEY NUNN

(First appearing in Counterpunch, 1/09/13)

In the final weeks of the 2012 campaign, I had the privilege of traveling to Pennsylvania with a national delegation of The Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted People’s Movement.  One of the goals of this movement is to actively engage formerly incarcerated people in civic life through voter education and voter registration.  That’s why when two of our member organizations, the Returning Citizen Voter Movement of Philadelphia and the National Council for Peace and Justice in Pittsburgh, invited us to conduct voter registration in areas hard hit by Voter ID laws, we said yes!

Many of us on the delegation were haunted by the memory of the grand theft of 2000 when Florida’s felony disenfranchisement laws prevented over 600,000 citizens from voting in a presidential race decided by 537 votes.  If that wasn’t bad enough, following that robbery, we witnessed our country being led to war. We watched as our children were sacrificed for democratic principles that many of us are unable to access because of conviction histories. We read newspaper accounts of people being allowed to vote in Iraq’s prisons while back in the US, many of us were being denied the right to vote because we had been to prison. We saw elected officials proudly hold their ink-dipped fingers in the air as an act of solidarity with the democratic efforts pursued in Iraq.  Meanwhile, these same officials continued to block our efforts to make democracy more accessible to our communities.

During the 2012 election we felt an even greater sense of urgency once we realized that the new voter suppression policies target our children and our elderly, not just us. This time around, it was more difficult for the right to disguise the heist as a safeguard against voter fraud. Why? Because college students and seniors haven’t been as thoroughly demonized as people with conviction histories have.  It was harder for the right wing to justify stealing their votes. This didn’t stop them of course.

When examined more closely, the 2012 wave of voter suppression lays bare the unpleasant national truth that there is nothing fair about our politics. The purpose of denying fundamental voting rights to entire categories of people has always been about controlling the results. The increasing restrictions on early voting, the expanding voter ID laws

and the bogus concerns for voter fraud serve the same purpose as felony disenfranchisement, to hide and legitimize this control and render the theft invisible.

Well, we’re not having it.  Our right to vote doesn’t only belong to us as individuals. It belongs to our ancestors who died for it, to our children, to our families and to our communities.  That’s why we refuse to accept the idea that our votes don’t matter and that we don’t matter. We reject the distorted media messages about who we are.  We know that off camera, millions of us ARE contributing to our communities despite all the obstacles put in front of us. The sooner more of us can vote, the sooner we can dismantle those obstacles and make even more meaningful contributions.

According to an economist’s estimate in 2008, the severe employment discrimination against people with conviction histories costs the US economy, including our communities, between $57 and $65 billion in reduced goods and services. Due to disproportionate enforcement and sentencing, communities of color are hardest hit by this loss.  So while it may be that individuals are denied the right to vote one at a time, the fact is felony disenfranchisement results in the collective punishment of particular classes of people.  Guess who?

The 2012 election marks the first time formerly incarcerated people decided to follow our own lead in regards to civic engagement.  Why? Because over the course of the last decade we noticed that no one ever came seeking our civic participation in the places that we hung out or frequented. Although our numbers are impressive, the 65 million people with conviction histories in the US face a confusing patchwork ofvoter registration policies. Consequently our voting power is deemed too difficult to tap.  Young voters are targeted by efforts like Rock the Vote and strategies are employed attaching the value of voting to new citizenship. Many of us are part of those communities too, but as folks with conviction histories and prison time we need our own GOTV efforts.  Ironically even our celebrities with conviction histories never focus on engaging us. They use their experience to sell music but I haven’t seen them talk to us about voting. It makes me wonder if political consciousness is more dangerous than crime since it’s not proclaimed as loudly.

That’s why during the 2012 election cycle we decide to organize ourselves. We looked past the billboards threatening to punish us if we made a mistake about our conviction status and registered to vote.  Our movement reached out to people in jails, treatment centers, halfway houses and educational and vocational schools. We stood in front of probation offices and court houses and outside the various Alcohol and Narcotics Anonymous meetings encouraging our communities to become involved in the democratic process.  We also employed litigation strategies to expand the pool of people with conviction histories who are eligible to vote.

Consider the impact of the Latino vote in this past election; what might happen if Americans with conviction histories, including those who are Latino, were able to exercise the right to vote?  We already know, in states like Alabama, where we’ve won back some voting rights, we can have a significant impact on election outcomes.

In the early hours of Nov. 7th, President Obama said:  “I want to thank every American who participated in this election. Whether you voted for the very first time or waited in line for a very long time. By the way, we have to fix that.” As I listened, I thought of all the people who have never even been allowed to get ON the voting line yet and said to the TV screen: President Obama, we have to fix that too and we will.  2016 here we come!

Dorsey Nunn is the Executive Director of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children and the co-founder of All of Us or None, a civil and human rights organization comprised of formerly incarcerated people, prisoners and their allies. He is also a formerly-incarcerated person.

California Prisoners Register to Vote

‘Get out the vote’ efforts go behind bars into LA’s jails

By Rina Palta | From 89.3 KPCC

The Twin Towers Correctional Facility in


The iconic Twin Towers Correctional Facility stands just northeast of L.A.’s skyline.

In the last few weeks before the Presidential election, “get out the vote” drives are in full gear nationwide. In L.A. County, there’s even an effort to go behind bars to register jail inmates to vote.

On a recent Wednesday, Lt. Edward Ramirez joined a group of volunteers and L.A. County Sheriff’s deputies heading into Twin Towers Correctional Facility in downtown Los Angeles to register inmates in a pod on the second floor of the eastern tower. 

Twin Towers is across the street from another famous L.A. lockup: the Men’s Central Jail. The skyscrapers sit just northeast of LA’s classic skyline and have the look of a late century office complex. But their thin slats of window distinguish the buildings as what they are— home to L.A.’s maximum security inmates and those inmates needing psychiatric care.

Ramirez points out that Twin Towers have a podular, panoptic design that make the facility a geometric puzzle for those who don’t work there every day.

Three sets of pods feed into a common day room, which sits in front of the observation booth’s windows.  

“You have officers in the booth who are able to see all the way around,” Ramirez says. But as much as Twins Towers is a fortress, he says, it’s a porous one.

“The bottom line is the majority of our inmates and the majority of prisoners in the state of California will be getting out at some time,” Ramirez says. 

People pass in and out of L.A.’s county jails every day. The average stay is about two years. Before the state prison system began sending non-violent prison inmates back to Caliornia’s 58 counties under realignment, the average stay was 30 to 40 days.

Everybody locked up in the Twin Towers jail is a part of Los Angeles, Ramirez says. And the more they realize that fact, the better.

“They need to be involved in the social activities that most people who aren’t incarcerated are involved with,” he says. “And that includes casting a ballot and having your voice heard.”

For the past few years Ramirez and other members of the Community Transition Unit have been going to every jail in L.A. County, registering those eligible to vote. Unlike in many states, a felony conviction in California doesn’t disqualify a person from voting, except while they’re serving their prison time.

Those serving jail time for a misdemeanor or who are on trial or awaiting trial can cast a ballot. 

This year for the first time, the Sheriff’s Department recruited volunteers to help register inmate voters and get them ballots.

Volunteer Fanya Baruti helped inmates who trickled in from the glassed-in cell blocks to fill out their paperwork.

“I’m one of those guys who didn’t vote until I was 50 years old,” Baruti says. 

He says it’s important for these inmates to vote because there are many issues on the ballot that affect them, from a proposition that would change three strikes, to school funding, to who’ll be the next district attorney.

“People have shed blood and died for just being able to vote,” Baruti says. “And so when we look at it historically, I think that should be empowerment enough to dispel the apathy that people have.”

The biggest surprise in registering voters behind bars?

“A lot of Republicans,” Baruti says. 

The two-week registration drive garnered 1,269 new voters. Those who’re in jail for the election will fill out their ballots absentee.