By Selene Raj
A box to mark one’s criminal conviction history has long been used as a tool to automatically reject formerly incarcerated job applicants. In their October meeting, the Tamarac city commission officially banned this practice’s use in the city’s hiring process.
The Ban the Box ordinance was part of a campaign started in 2004 by All of Us or None, a civil rights organization made up of formerly incarcerated people and their families. It aims to end the use of a box to mark one’s criminal conviction history — which organizers point out has been used to discriminate against formerly incarcerated individuals in employment, housing, and public service.
Commissioner Mike Gelin first brought the motion to pass a Ban the Box ordinance to Tamarac, and on Wednesday, October 28, it became a reality.
“I am pleased to join 36 states and over 150 cities in instituting “Ban the Box,” a policy that will give a second chance to returning citizens who are merely trying to support themselves and their families,” said Gelin.
Gelin wanted the ordinance to be strong, so the policy of banning the box extends not only to the city’s hiring practices but also applies to any third-party vendors or contractors that the city hires.
“Thousands of people return to their communities each year, and they need a real opportunity to stay on the right side of the law. As a city, we can only hire so many people, so I wanted our provision to apply to the vendors/contractors as well to ensure a wider impact,” he said.
In celebrating the ordinance’s success, Gelin used a formerly incarcerated individual, Jeff Henderson, as an example.
After serving almost a decade in federal prison for drug trafficking, Henderson was repeatedly rejected by potential employers until being hired by Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. This allowed his culinary career to elevate.
Since then, he has become the first Black Executive Chef at Café Bellagio in Las Vegas, a New York Times best-selling author, and a popular Food Network Personality, who continues to help at-risk youth and other vulnerable groups.
“None of this would have been possible if someone hadn’t decided to take a chance on the former drug trafficker,” said Commissioner Gelin.
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- Selene Raj is a writer and a Florida International University graduate. Born in Trinidad and raised in America, she completed her Master's in Mass Communications in 2020, and has been living in Coral Springs since 2004. She is passionate about the communities she lives and works in and loves reporting and sharing stories that are as complex and meaningful as the people who live in them.