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Hawaii job application law reduces crime

By Erika Engle

LAST UPDATED: 7:23 a.m. HST, Aug 26, 2014

Hawaii's 1998 law banning employers from asking applicants if they have been convicted of a crime, has reduced the incidence of repeat offenders in the state, a new study shows.

Without income from a paying job, an ex-offender likely will return to criminal activity, so the criminal conviction question with the "yes" or "no" box to check on job applications, was eliminated by state law.

Hawaii's so-called "ban-the-box" law has been instituted by other states, including Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey and Rhode Island, and several major cities, according to researchers at Florida International University.

They reviewed data from Hawaii's state judiciary and found that criminal defendants prosecuted for a felony in the City and County of Honolulu were 57 percent less likely to have had a prior criminal conviction, since the previous-conviction question was stricken from job applications.

The study, while restricted to one county, shows that ban-the-box laws can reduce repeat offenses by helping ex-offenders obtain employment.

The study, published in the American Journal of Criminal Justice, should be broadened to include other jurisdictions to determine the true effectiveness of such laws, researchers said.

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