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Letter: ‘Ban the Box’ initiative will benefit community

‘Ban the Box’ initiative will benefit community

As the CEO of Families Together in New York State, a statewide family-run organization that advocates for children with emotional, behavioral and social challenges, I applaud SUNY’s recent passage of the “Ban the Box” resolution. This initiative heeds a strong body of evidence showing that access to higher education reduces recidivism rates and increases the likelihood of successful post-incarceration transitions back into society. These outcomes ultimately foster safer communities.

In my role as a family advocate, I’ve all too often heard heart-rending accounts of teens becoming tangled up in the criminal justice system for common adolescent offenses that sometimes carry a felony designation such as a senior prank gone awry, marijuana or alcohol related offenses, or a schoolyard altercation. While these offenses are noteworthy and deserving of consequences, the long-standing process of requiring disclosure of such offenses on all college applications often results in hindering educational opportunities for those with a record, who’ve already paid their debt to society. This resolution, however, recognizes that people (particularly teens) make mistakes, carefully considers the level of offense after the initial application, and weighs the potential safety threat to the college community. Nationwide results of similar initiatives have been shown to provide pathways to productive citizenship.

Bravo to SUNY for taking such a step and let’s hope other New York universities and colleges follow suit.

Paige Pierce

CEO, Families Together in New York State

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