Montgomery County considers 'Ban the Box' law to help ex-cons find work

ROCKVILLE, Md. (NewsChannel 8) - Montgomery County lawmakers are looking to help ex-cons have a better shot at getting a job by joining Md., D.C., and nine other states in passing "ban the box" legislation that would prevent employers from asking about criminal history prior to an interview.

It includes people like Sharron Holquin. She is a grandmother to seven but still wants to work.

"I want to continue on working because that is my choice of doing it and I will do a very good job at it," said Holquin.

Holquin is college educated but was denied a recent job because she served more than a decade in federal prison for a non-violent crime.

"He asked me about my case that happened 20 something years ago and I said yes there was a case and he said I wasn't eligible for the job," said Holquin.

Montgomery County lawmakers now want to make it easier for Sharron and other former prisoners to get work.

"One of the biggest barriers is the box on the employment application that says have you ever committed a crime," said Marc Elrich, Montgomery County Councilmember.

Ten states have already implemented similar "ban the box" legislation, including Maryland.

The DC Council approved similar legislation on Monday.

Maryland adopted it for state employment in 2013.

Montgomery County would be the first county in Maryland to follow suit and the legislation would also require private employers to follow it as well.

"No we are not going to make you hire anybody, this still leaves the business decision in the hands of the private employer," said Elrich.

Fred Chandler runs the 'Welcome Home' program at the county's pre-release center which helps prisoner's with re-entry into society.

He connects mentors with former prisoners.

He says jobs are key to reducing recidivism.

"They have to explain who they are today. Now they have to get the opportunity to do that and getting the opportunity to do that is in the job interview," said Fred Chandler.

Lawmakers say it won't eliminate background checks and doesn't guarantee a job -- just a better chance at one.

"You have to keep going, because if you don't you will never make it," said Holquin.

The Montgomery County Council still does not know what type of penalty there would be if an employer did not follow the law.

Councilmembers Marc Elrich, Cherri Branson, and Nancy Navarro are the chief sponsors of the legislation.

The legislation was introduced on Tuesday and still needs to go to a committee.

Also, a public hearing will be held on the issue before a vote happens.

If you want to take a look at the legislation, you can find it on Montgomery County's website.