Monday, September 1, 2014
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Opinion: Too Big for the Box -- Our Economy, Character, And Crime

One of today's major economic challenges to the nation and New Jersey is best described not with new data but with two long-forgotten black-and-white photos. The first depicts a young man with a precocious maturity and the number 7-0-8-9 scratched over his undeniable dignity. The second shows a somewhat older woman whose face reveals both shyness and fierce determination. Yet the number 7-0-5-3 is scrawled like the grime of graffiti across her unrepentant personhood.

Opinion: Too Big for the Box -- Our Economy, Character, And Crime

One of today’s major economic challenges to the nation and New Jersey is best described not with new data but with two long-forgotten black-and-white photos. The first depicts a young man with a precocious maturity and the number 7-0-8-9 scratched over his undeniable dignity. The second shows a somewhat older woman whose face reveals both shyness and fierce determination. Yet the number 7-0-5-3 is scrawled like the grime of graffiti across her unrepentant personhood.

The slender young man came to be known not by the arrest number 7-0-8-9 but rather by his formal name: the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. Similarly, the reserved older woman is not known to the world’s schoolchildren as number 7-0-5-3, but rather as the mother of the modern civil rights movement: Mrs. Rosa Louis Parks.

The1956 mug shots and criminal records of civil disobedience for Dr. King and Mrs. Parks were found in a file cabinet in 2004 -- forgotten for nearly a half century. Were those records created today, they could neither be lost nor forgotten. The 65 million Americans (one in four adults) with a criminal record are reminded whenever they fill out a job application that states: “Please check the box, if you have ever been arrested or convicted of a crime.” This tiny box is a massive economic challenge to both job applicants and business.

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