Panel Paper: Assessing Felony Reincarceration Under “Ban the Box” Initiatives

Saturday, November 4, 2017
Stetson D (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Ryan Kling, Abt Associates, Inc.

In 2012, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued guidelines announcing that for occupations that do not service vulnerable populations (e.g. children), an employer should not request felony criminal history as it violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The EEOC found that prior felony convictions are highly correlated with racial status. Other organizations have long suggested that criminal history should be handled carefully with employment decisions. Since 2010, these efforts have culminated with many state and local governments removing questions about prior felonies on their applications (i.e. “ban the box”) ( Although there are a number of new studies relating “ban the box” initiatives on interview or employment outcomes (e.g. Agan & Starr, Doleac & Hansen), they do not address whether the initiative affects subsequent criminality of felony offenders. Using a nationally-representative of prison incarceration collected by the Bureau of the Justice Statistics, the National Corrections Reporting Program (NCRP), we are able to assess “ban the box” initiatives on subsequent felony incarcerations of released offenders. Employment is an important risk factor for criminal recidivism, so if “ban the box” initiatives are effective for raising employment of prior felons, then we should observe reductions in reincarceration rates for these individuals. The NCRP collects administrative data on individuals admitted, released, and present at the end of the year in state prison departments for all 50 states. For 44 states the NCRP data report prison history and may link multiple prison stays for an individual, within-state, back to 2005. Many states report data into mid-1990s to early 2000s. Given the breadth of the NCRP data, the long time series the NCRP reports for many states, the ability to link offender prison histories over time within a state, and that nearly all offenders released from prison have felony convictions, the NCRP data give us the ability to do a large-scale assessment of “ban the box” initiatives with respect to individual incarceration. We have a long time series of incarceration, so we may assess “ban the box” over time within state using an event analysis. The timing of these policy changes has been staggered, giving us a dimension through which we can compare states. Therefore, we can also assess these policies using a difference-in-difference strategy. Using these data and analysis strategy, we will report the first large-scale estimates of “ban the box” initiatives on felony reincarceration.