By MIRANDA BAINES
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
“It Starts With U,” a local foundation, is hosting a public forum on the “ban the box” initiative from 6:30-8:30 p.m. today in the auditorium of the Edgecombe County Administrative Building, 201 St. Andrew St.
“Banning the box” refers to eliminating the “box” on job applications asking an applicant if they have been convicted of a crime.
“When a person goes to apply for a job, we want everybody to have a fair chance. Banning the box does that. Banning the box doesn’t allow the box to speak for them,” said Kim Harrell, chair of “It Starts With U,” an Edgecombe County-based foundation started in 2008 by Carol Allen White, Edgecombe County Clerk of Court.
“We provide services for adults who were previously incarcerated or have an unfavorable background,” said White.
Banning the box gives job seekers with a criminal background a chance to get to the job interview, where they have an opportunity to explain their background and qualifications, Harrell said. If the applicant does not receive the job after the interview, it is simply because they were simply “not the right fit” for the job, said Harrell.
Daryl V. Atkinson of the Southern Coalition for Justice and founding member of the North Carolina Second Chance Alliance will be the guest speaker at the forum.
“Atkinson is a former offender who is an attorney now. He’s seeing it from both sides,” White said.
Jacqueline Cooper, program director for “It Starts With U,” said the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal agency, is on board with hiring ex-offenders.
“You can’t just not hire somebody point blank because they have a criminal background,” she said.
White said the foundation encourages former offenders to become “productive citizens” and gives them a “road map” for re-entering society and tools to change their behaviors and set them up for success, White said.
“We’re kind of there to motivate them and coach them along the way,” Cooper said. “We prepare them so they’re ready to work. “
For more information, call the foundation at 641-1832.