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Ban the Box, and the Hidden Side Effects of Addiction

When we think of the side effects of drugs, we often think of the physical tole substance abuse can take on the body. We think of paranoia, weight loss, seizures, or even death. However, the side effects produced by drugs aren’t always something we can feel or see. Drugs are intrinsically dangerous in more ways than just the physical side effects they can induce. Most arrests in the United States involve drug violations, with an overwhelming majority simply being possession crimes. While the time individuals arrested for these crimes spend in jail is usually short, a criminal record can have long-lasting impact on their lives. Something as minor as a drug possession arrest can make it extremely difficult to find a job, to the point that many civil rights groups are advocating major change to the current employment eligibility system.

We’ve all filled out a job application before, but many of us have the luxury of being able to skip over a part of the application that makes a huge difference to those with a criminal record. In many states, job applications include a section with questions such as “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” or similar questions. If someone answers this question honestly, the odds of them actually getting an interview are astronomically slim. For this reason, many civil rights groups are trying to change the legislation that allows employers to ask these questions on applications.

The movement, titled “Ban the Box,” has picked up steam across the states, with many areas adopting the process, except when the job involves interactions with children or government positions. The Ban the Box movement relies on the premise that if these individuals aren’t hired, they’re likely to end up in prison again. Further evidence points to the idea that unemployment amongst former criminals can actually have a detrimental impact on the economy. In 2008, unemployment amongst this demographic actually impacted the GDP by up to $65 million.

A drug crime shouldn’t ruin someone’s life, especially if they make a real effort to overcome their criminal past or addiction. This is why rehab is essential, as an individual who enters treatment and overcomes their addiction is far less likely to be arrested for a drug crime. However, many still experience this discrimination daily, which is why the Ban the Box movement is continuing to pick up steam.