So-called Ban the Box policies were well-intended, prohibiting employers from asking on an initial job application whether an individual has been convicted of a crime. This, the theory went, gives qualified applicants with criminal records an opportunity to convey their value to employers rather than seeing their résumés preemptively thrown out.
Do the policies work? This can be tested since 37 states have such laws, with some places even applying them to the private sector. Wisconsin has applied a Ban the Box law to state government hiring since 2016, and Milwaukee and Racine followed for municipal jobs. Has it made a difference?
Recent and rigorous academic evaluations suggest that such policies aren’t effective at increasing employment among the formerly incarcerated. Some research links the policies with worsened employment prospects for men without criminal records or for Black men. In short, Ban the Box policies are ripe for re-evaluation and Wisconsin should avoid them.
This report is a revised and updated version of a Badger Institute policy brief originally published in 2019.