Law-Engaged Graduate Student Seminar: The Perils of Policy Prescription and the Unforeseen Consequences of Ban the Box Initiatives
Department:Program in Law and Public Affairs
Audience:Restricted to Princeton graduate students, faculty, and fellows
Brandon Hunter is a 2nd year Phd student in the Department of Anthropology and a law graduate from Georgetown University Law Center. Brandon's work uses ethnography to explore questions of law, policy, labor, and politics in a number of contexts including criminal justice reform efforts in the United States and labor union organizing and political engagement in tourism zones in Mexico. He is particularly interested in the intricacies of policy formation in urban settings especially around questions of labor, infrastructure, and space making and the multiple, often overlapping and contradictory forces, that shape political spaces.
Over the past decade jurisdictions across the country have passed "ban the box" legislation prohibiting an employer from discriminating against an individual based on their criminal record. For advocates, these efforts were aimed at reducing recidivism by ensuring returning citizens could secure employment based on their skills rather than their past. Recent studies, however, have demonstrated some unforeseen consequences of ban the box measures as they may increase discrimination against job applicants on the basis of race and gender. While these studies raise important concerns about discrimination in the labor market, evaluating the success of ban the box initiatives on their effect on employment discrimination misses their symbolic value and strategic importance in the larger prison abolitionist and criminal justice reform movement. Using ethnographic data on the development and passage of Washington DC's ban the box law, I argue for a broader assessment of ban the box that not only includes its effect, but takes into account its formation within particular political contexts.