Supporters of a measure to prohibit New Jersey employers from asking about criminal history on job applications rallied outside the Statehouse in Trenton Wednesday.

 

Chanting "ban the box," about 100 demonstrators urged lawmakers to pass the legislation eliminating a requirement that job seekers with a criminal record check a box on an employment application forms.

Many of those who have criminal records did not commit violent acts and deserve a second chance, said Cornell William Brooks, president of the New Jersey Institute For Social Justice.

"It includes the college student who was arrested for drinking too much," Books said. "It includes the middle-age executive who committed some youthful indiscretion years ago and is seeking to move up in his company."

Princeton University student Ray Chao, who helped organize the rally, says when the box is checked, most employers just toss the application in the trash.

"What we're asking is for businesses to give everyone the chance to compete on their merits of the application and then, at the end of the application process, they can do a criminal background check," Chao said. "We're allowing them to find the best candidate for the job.

"Ultimately it's up to the employers who have the freedom to hire whomever they desire," he said.

Sponsor Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, D-Mercer, said many who have committed minor offenses have the skills to be a good employee.

It makes more sense, she said, to give them the chance to work and contribute to state revenues than to be unemployed and rely on government assistance.