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Most Shelby volunteer boards won’t ask about criminal past

June 14, 2022 GMT

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Commissioners in Tennessee’s most populous county approved an ordinance that removes questions about criminal histories from most applications to join volunteer boards and commissions, officials said Tuesday.

Sponsored by Democratic and Republican commissioners, the Fair Chance to Serve ordinance takes away an important barrier for Shelby County residents with criminal records who want to serve on volunteer commissions and boards, officials said in a news release.

Mayor Lee Harris said the ordinance can “expand the opportunity for ex-offenders to reintegrate back into society.”

“Someone who has made a mistake and has a record should not be denied or discouraged from volunteering to serve their community,” Harris said. “When barriers to civic engagement and volunteer service are removed, we all benefit.”

Democrat Van Turner Jr. and Republican Mick Wright sponsored the ordinance. Turner is also president of the NAACP Memphis branch.

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“Candidates who have been through the justice system have paid their debt to society and have been thinking about ways to turn their lives around,” Wright said. “They will bring different perspectives and expertise to serve our communities.”

In 2020, a “Ban the Box” ordinance supported by Harris and approved by the commission removed questions about arrests and convictions on county government job applications.