Roanoke, VA - Eleventh District Democrat Delegate Sam Rasoul, is throwing his support behind the "Ban the Box" campaign, which basically would remove the "felony" question from job applications.
Ever since Rasoul ran for Congress in 2008 one issue that has been on his mind is how to get ex offenders to once again become productive citizens.
The answer, he believes, could be as simple as taking that felony question off of job applications.
"Of course they are going to do a background check after the fact. After the interview. But at least give someone a chance for a face to face interview so you get to know someone beyond a piece of paper," said Rasoul.
It's going to be an uphill battle as some locales have been unsuccessful making the change, however.
Roanoke's City Council has been considering the issue more than a year and recently decided to keep the question, to be consistent with other locales, including Lynchburg.
But they also want to make sure applicants know it doesn't preclude them from getting hired.
"We are committed and I am committed to make sure that every applicant be given an opportunity. And that includes ex-offenders. We want ex offenders that have a skill to come in and apply for work in our city," said Roanoke councilman, Sherman Lea.
There is movement in the General Assembly to make the change in some form.
Rasoul believes the argument is gaining momentum and will be a focus next session.
A move experts believe saves tax dollars by allowing ex-offenders to contribute to the tax base versus taking away tax dollars used for prosecuting an ex-offender with no hope.
"Think about what it does to our families. Someone is released and wants to find a good job to take care of themselves, take care of their family. That's why we see them fall back into their bad habits," said Rasoul.
Rasoul says he does plan on being a co-patron on at least one bill as there are already a few Assembly members pushing this issue.
You may also see a direct push at urban areas that are disproportionately affected by former inmates being reintegrated into the population.
Richmond has already taken the lead as a city and has "banned the box".