Ban the Box: Addressing Effects of Systemic Racism on Justice-Involved Individuals in Pathways to Professional Psychology

Melanie M. Wilcox, Terrill O. Taylor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The effects of systemic racism in the U.S. are well-documented, including within criminal justice and educational systems that disparately impact justice-involved individuals. In response to calls for professional psychology to examine its role in advancing antiracism efforts and making the discipline more inclusive, we argue that psychology must work harder at addressing systemic racism within pathways to professional psychology. One critical issue with which psychology must grapple is the commonplace requirement of criminal record history disclosures. Applicants to graduate programs, assistantships, practicum sites, predoctoral internship sites, some employment opportunities, and even membership in the American Psychological Association (APA), its Divisions, and American Psychological Association of Graduate Students (APAGS) often must identify their history of justice involvement (i.e., to check the box) despite documented disparate racial impact and research demonstrating that such identification does not serve its intended purpose of preventing harm. Thus, the requirement serves primarily as a type of security theater. Although the removal of this requirement is complex, difficult, and often beyond the scope of one individual decision maker or program, we argue that this should be a priority for those in the education and training sectors of psychology. We discuss the available research, the potential opportunities and barriers associated with banning the box, and provide recommendations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalTraining and Education in Professional Psychology
StateAccepted/In press - 2022


  • Ban the box
  • Criminal record disclosure
  • Justice-involved
  • Social justice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Psychology(all)


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