Inmates march on the grounds of Dr. Eddie Warrior Correctional Center before others were released after having their sentences commuted Monday, Nov. 4, 2019. MIKE SIMONS/Tulsa World

Recently Oklahoma made headlines with the largest single-day commutation in U.S. history. For years, many across the state have been calling for criminal justice reform.

Oklahoma has led the nation for over two decades in female incarceration and in male incarceration for the last two years.

With this commutation, now is the time to make this a permanent change.

According to a report published by the American Civil Liberties Union, joblessness is the single biggest factor in recidivism. Yet for many companies, policies are still in place that greatly reduce or eliminate opportunities for those with criminal backgrounds to be considered for available positions.

In other areas of the country, campaigns for “Ban the Box” have had a significant impact by eliminating the checkbox on applications asking whether they have been convicted of a crime.

With companies such as Starbucks, Koch Industries and American Airlines on board, the results have been promising. Studies have shown individuals with criminal backgrounds tend to be more loyal and have lower turnover.

With low unemployment rates, widening the pool of candidates can ensure a company gets the best employee for the position.

This commutation can be a true turning point in Oklahoma history or a blip in our checkered criminal justice past.

The decision now lies in the hands of the community.

What is your company policy regarding hiring those with criminal records? What part will you play in ending the cycle of incarceration in Oklahoma?

Lani Burns, Bixby

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