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Posted on: July 17, 2020

Mayor Lee Harris’ Update Regarding the Last Chance to Redeem “Ban the Box” Ordinance

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As I have mentioned in past messages, the County Commission is currently considering our ordinance to Ban the Box. This new ordinance would remove the inquiry into criminal history from most Shelby County Government job applications. Ban the Box creates more opportunity for ex-offenders to compete for jobs. Ban the Box is a significant opportunity to improve public safety, reduce the number of people cycling in and out of our criminal justice system, and expand opportunity for ex-offenders.

Our ordinance has been in the works for months and we are proud of the partnership with County Commissioner Tami Sawyer, a Democrat, and Commissioner Mick Wright, a Republican, who have shepherded this legislation from the start. Working together, we have generated significant momentum, winning sponsorship from nine Commissioners and the support of several groups, including Just City, Lifeline to Success, NAACP Collierville, the Memphis Urban League, MICAH, Hope Church, Agape Child & Family Services, HopeWorks, KLAP, Inc., Advance Memphis, and former District Attorney Bill Gibbons.

Unfortunately, at the last Commission meeting, several unfriendly amendments were added to the Ban the Box ordinance. The ordinance, with all the new amendments, FAILED during Monday’s vote.

Now, we only have one more chance to revive this important criminal justice reform and to make sure Ban the Box succeeds. Next Wednesday, July 22nd, the ordinance will go before a Commission committee for a final reading.

This is our last shot.

If any Commissioner makes a motion to bifurcate (split) the ordinance into two parts, the original Ban the Box ordinance can be revived. The various amendments that were previously added would be considered separately. If we can get those amendments removed, we believe there is a great chance that the original ordinance would pass.

If you would like to support a strong, final push to “Ban the Box” from most Shelby County Government applications, we’ve drafted an email you can send to Commissioners (see below). You can find contact information for each Commissioner here. We are grateful for all the support thus far and hope to be able to offer another update after Wednesday’s County Commission meeting.

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Draft Email to Commissioners:

Subject: Please Save “Ban the Box”


Dear Commissioners:                     

It is my understanding that the Ban the Box ordinance is at risk of failure. As you know, there are calls nationwide for serious criminal justice reforms. While our country is facing a reckoning on issues with criminal justice systems, now is the time for action.

The original ordinance was sponsored by nine Commissioners and has garnered support from Just City, Lifeline to Success, NAACP Collierville, the Memphis Urban League, MICAH, Hope Church, Agape Child & Family Services, HopeWorks, KLAP, Inc., Advance Memphis, and Former District Attorney Bill Gibbons.

I am asking that on Wednesday, July 22nd, you make a motion to consider the original Ban the Box ordinance and only Ban the Box. 

I believe that you have the votes to pass Ban the Box and to get something done on criminal justice reform. We cannot lose all the progress that’s been made. Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to more efforts by the Commission to take leadership on criminal justice reforms.


Sincerely,

First Name, Last Name

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