WICHITA, Kansas – Officials with the city of Wichita announced Thursday that, effective immediately, the city is revising their Human Resources and procurement policies for contractual services to “Ban The Box.”
In doing so, felons can “promote their qualifications before sharing their criminal background” when applying for jobs with the city.
“I’m so proud to say that the city of Wichita is banning the box so that everybody can have a fair chance,” said Wichita City Council Member for District I, Lavonta Williams. “By eliminating the felony box, ex-offenders promote their qualifications as a prospective employee, before sharing their criminal background.”
Council Member Williams says Wichita is likely the second city in Kansas to initiate this hiring process. Kansas City, Kansas was the first.
KSN sat down with a convicted felon who says he knows how difficult it is to get a job with a criminal record.
“I was applying everywhere to try and make ends meet. It’s really hard to find a job when you’re a felon, extremely hard,” said Fabian Cordero.
Cordero, 23, first got into trouble with the law when he was only a teenager. At a young age, he says he idolized gangs.
“I was in and out of juvenile halls, foster care, and then eventually, I went to county jail when I was 17-years-old for a crime that I committed,” said Cordero.
Later, Cordero served more than three years in prison, then years parole following his release.
Cordero finished parole in May 2015.
“I just looked back on all the stuff that I was doing as a juvenile, and when I was released that’s something that I realized… That’s not something I want for myself [anymore],” said Cordero.
With his criminal history, Cordero said he became discouraged when job application after job application kept getting denied because of his past. He says he became discouraged just to submit applications thinking, oftentimes, they would simply be thrown out.
“I was always scared to fill out an application just because of that box,” he said. “That box, being taken off the applications, might encourage people to go out and look for jobs, and I think it will help out the community a lot.”
Convicted felons, Cordero says, often lose hope in that process.
“I think that’s the problem with a lot of guys,” said Cordero. “They just get discouraged and they feel like there’s no hope for them out there… That people don’t want to give them second chances.”
But, Cordero was eventually given a second chance. He has a job with benefits so he can support his growing family.
“At one point in my life, I was that person,” Cordero explained.
Now, he said, “I want to have a good job. I want to have a career. I want a family. I want to raise my kids. I want to live a long, happy life.”
For anyone working to turn their life around, Fabian Cordero has a message:
“You just can’t give up. You give up, you fall right back into what you were doing that landed you in jail.”
Cordero hopes Wichita’s decision to “Ban The Box” will have a larger impact, as well.
“Hopefully it encourages other communities to do the same thing.”
Organizers and members of Sunflower Community Action worked with Lavonta Williams the past year to implement the “Ban The Box” policy.
Below is an excerpt from a press release dated Thursday, after the announcement was made:
“This is a victory for Sunflower Community Action and the Community. Returning citizens in Wichita deserve a fair chance at being able to get a job in order to be able to take care of themselves and their families. The City of Wichita has taken a bold step in showing these men and women that their futures are important and matter to those who are representing them. We will continue to work with the City to expand these benefits to include companies that receive tax abatements for doing business in the city,” said executive director Danilo Balladares.
KSN reached out to Sedgwick County leaders to learn if they plan on implementing the initiative in their hiring practices, as well.
“If Wichita’s moving in that direction, I would expect that this is a topic that will come before us at some point, probably fairly soon,” said Commissioner Jim Howell, who represents the fifth district.
Commissioner Howell tells KSN the discussion has not yet come up before the county commission, but he says, he can see both sides of the debate.
“It’s obviously going to be a very interesting discussion, and I look forward to possibly having this discussion sometime soon,” explained Howell. “But, right now… there’s been no discussion up to this point, so maybe it’s something we’ll see come up.”
For related content, please see the story below:Koch Industries joins “Ban The Box” hiring movement