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Banning the box, a returning citizen's story

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The District of Columbia's City Council is well on its way to making it possible for even more area to be hired.

In recent weeks, the D.C. Council has moved forward with joining four states and several cities that have successfully removed that "box" from job applications of private companies; essentially, the city's joining the Ban the Box Movement.

Supporters of the movement believe that simple question keeps an overwhelming majority of the nearly 70 million people in America who have been convicted of a felony out of a chance to land a job, which could easily help them stay out of prison.

That was once the plight of Niles "Kip" Kilpatrick, a Prince George's County resident who now works in the District. Kip says that he was released from federal prison after doing nine years, and when the then 47-year old went out looking for work he was met with rejection after rejection.

"I know that those people that saw my application, looked at my age and that little box on the application that came after: Have you ever been convicted of a felony?" he recalls. "I was truthful and admitted that I had been behind bars for a while."

He added that he was doing the right things (successful probation, volunteering, staying out of trouble), but he just couldn't get things going in the right direction. He blamed it on that meddlesome question: Have you ever been convicted of a felony?

Kip mentioned that he applied for jobs at hotels, restaurants, and even fast food places to no avail. Every place he applied to wouldn't give him a chance to go beyond the application process.

Some returning citizens see a great deal of irony in what many employers are doing. Kip said he attended countless hours of classes on a variety of things while incarcerated. All of those things were to help him make the transition easier when he was released.

He said, "I felt like if I could just get in front of somebody, I could sell myself."

Many D.C. residents who have been convicted of a felony have the same constant problem of finding stable and reliable employment. And they also believe that if an employer would look give them a chance at an interview, they stand a better chance at landing a job.

Another returning citizen who lives in the District chimed that removing the box would level the playing ground for thousands of residents and countless future residents. "If the council does the right thing by helping to remove the box," he said, "just imagine how many more people would be employed in D.C."

"D.C. fully banning the box would not only help city residents, but it helps employers too," Kip finished.

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