As noted in the post below, there has been some very encouraging news at the federal level in recent days surrounding the issue of criminal justice reform. As attorney Daniel Bowes reported, President Obama recently announced some important bipartisan progress in addressing America’s over-incarceration problem — including a move to “ban the box” in federal hiring:

“I’m taking action to ‘Ban the Box’ for the most competitive job at federal agencies–the federal government should not use criminal history to screen out applicants before we’ve even looked at their qualifications.” The President directed the Office of Personnel Management to take action to modify its rules to delay inquiries into criminal history until later in the hiring process. In doing so, he cited several private employers, including Walmart, Target, Koch Industries, and Home Depot, as well as 19 states that have banned the box. President Obama explained his hope is that this collective action to Ban the Box makes the practice of not automatically excluding applicants with criminal records from opportunities “a basic principle across our society.”
In light of this progress, a growing chorus is calling for similar action at the state level. This is from a media release distributed this morning by the North Carolina Justice Center:

North Carolinians call on Gov. McCrory, legislators to “Ban the Box” for public employment
More than 1,000 North Carolinians visiting the NC State Fair signed a petition in support of fair hiring procedures that would prevent exclusion of job applicants with criminal records Read More

Second chancesLast week, President Obama announced several executive actions aimed at promoting the reintegration of formerly incarcerated individuals into communities across the nation. The announcement came in response to consistent pressure from advocates, including the North Carolina Second Chance Alliance, and follows a growing trend among states of reducing barriers to reentry and otherwise restoring opportunities for productive citizenship for individuals with criminal records.

Standing before a crowd of formerly incarcerated individuals, reentry service providers, business and community leaders in Newark, New Jersey, President Obama cited some of our criminal justice system’s more startling statistics:

  • 2.2 million Americans—disproportionately African-Americans and Latinos— are currently behind bars
  • The United States has 5% of the world’s population, but 25% of its inmates
  • More than 600,000 inmates are released each year
  • one in three adults of working age—or 70 million Americans—have a criminal record

As the President explained in his description of what life with a criminal record can mean:

“A lot of times that record disqualifies you from being a full participant in our society even if you’ve already paid your debt to society. It means millions of Americans have difficulty getting their foot in the door to try to get a job, much less actually hanging onto that job. That’s bad for not only those individual— it’s bad for our economy. It’s bad for our communities who need more role models who are gainfully employed. So we’ve got to make sure that Americans that have paid their debt to society can earn their second chance.”

Towards this goal of restoring opportunities for productive citizenship for deserving community members, President Obama announced the following measures: Read More


McCollum BrownIf you’re like most people, you probably missed Governor McCrory’s announcement yesterday touting a new state plan to help a peanut operation create 78 jobs over three years in Chowan County. Though all well and good as far as these announcements go, what really stands out about this one was its inclusion of the Governor’s statement that he was especially happy to have pardoned one of the company’s leaders in 2013 for crimes he committed several decades ago.

To which all a caring and thinking person can say in response is: a) Bravo! Thousands of good North Carolinians undoubtedly deserve such second chances, and b) Speaking of which, Governor, what in the heck is going on with the pardon applications of Henry McCollum and Leon Brown?!

McCollum and Brown, you’ll recall, are the half brothers who were found innocent last year of crimes for which they were imprisoned more than 30 years. In other words, they didn’t commit a terrible crime and then later get their lives together; they were wrongfully and horrifically railroaded into prison and served decades for crimes they didn’t commit. McCollum was sentenced to death!

Meanwhile, tomorrow marks the six-month anniversary of the pardon requests the men submitted — a period during which the men have received no compensation for the terrible injustice inflicted upon them by the state of North Carolina. As Raleigh’s News & Observer reported last month:

“The men, who are half-brothers and who are intellectually disabled, were each given $45 in cash when they left prison in September – the sum total of help they have received from the state. They live in Fayetteville with their sister, who struggles to pay the rent and keep the light and water bills paid. They have depended on the kindness of supporters for all their money.

A Superior Court judge declared them innocent in September. North Carolina law authorizes payment of $50,000 a year, up to a maximum of $750,000, to incarcerated individuals later proven innocent. But the brothers first need to obtain a pardon of innocence from the governor.”

Earth to Governor McCrory: The time for action is long past due. Do the right thing and help these men and their families — now. And if you want to learn more about the subject, all you have to do is walk a couple blocks down the street from the mansion and attend a panel discussion that Campbell Law School will be holding Thursday evening. Here are the details: Read More


Cumberland County is taking steps to join Durham County and a growing list of governmental bodies around the country that have “banned the box.” 

The “ban the box” campaign is, of course, a movement to convince employers of all kinds to alter their hiring practices so that questions about an applicant’s criminal record are not asked right up front on the initial job application. The concept is simple and sound: Read More