Don’t Ask…..Assault Again

Recently in class, we discussed the issue of leaving off the question about criminal history on job applications. I found this extremely interesting in light of recent events at Indiana University in Bloomington. This past week was what IU students like to refer to as “the greatest college week in America” or better known as Little 500. While the premise of the week is rooted in the bike races for both men and women, much of the attention was shifted to cover the story of the murder of Hannah Wilson. Thursday night, Hannah was heading to a very popular bar in Bloomington called Kilroy’s when her friends decided she was too inebriated to enter so they put her in a cab. Parked outside of the bar was a man in a car that appeared to look like a cab, so the friends paid for the cab upfront and Hannah gave her address to the driver. Everything appeared normal as the driver dropped her off and she put her keys and phone on the counter once she entered her home. However, the night took a turn for the worse when Hannah’s friends came home to see her stuff on the kitchen counter but could not find their friend. They sent out a missing persons alert which was not sent out to the community until a person found a dead body in Brown County, just south of Bloomington.

After further investigation, the body was confirmed to be Hannah’s and she died from blunt force trauma to her head just weeks away from graduation. The murderer was found hours later on Friday night due to a cell phone left by her body. When authorities went to question Daniel Messel, 49-year-old white male living in Bloomington, they found blood and hair in his vehicle, as well as claw marks on his arms. This man has a long history of domestic violence and aggravated assault charges on his record and has been in and out of jail. The media outcry hours after the story broke blamed Uber because word had gotten out that he was an Uber driver, but Uber came forth and said they had now history of this man working for them nor would he have gotten the job with his criminal background. So, this makes me really think no we should not get rid of the background check on people when applying for jobs.

Based on this story, it seems the background check saves companies from hiring someone with this extensive criminal history. However, we have read and discussed how this is not always the case. Some ‘criminals’ are convinced to take the plea deal even though they did not commit a certain crime. Some ‘criminals’ are not in fact criminals and others get brought in on minor infractions but pay more time based on their race. Therefore, this leads me to question: what would the scenario be like if Messel were black? Would he have paid more time in jail for his crimes? Would he have even been allowed out? How would the media reaction differ?

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2 thoughts on “Don’t Ask…..Assault Again

  1. Oh. Stories like this one are so heart-breaking. The pervasiveness of violence against women just enrages me.

    That said, I don’t think anyone is saying, for example, that we should not take steps to prevent child abusers from becoming day care providers, or that we should force a bank to hire a security guard who had been convicted of bank robbery. Alexander points out that many of the reforms suggest that ‘the box’ be removed from the initial application, but that employers have a right to ask about prior arrests or convictions prior to hire. So you turn in your application and don’t have to ‘out’ yourself as a felon, but if you make it past the first round in terms of qualifications and skills, then it’s fair game to ask if there are past convictions that are *relevant* to the job you are applying for. So being a bankrobber, for instance, doesn’t necessarily mean that you are not perfectly capable of being, say, a dog groomer or a landscaper. The point is to more specifically tailor the exclusion of those with criminal pasts from jobs that are related to the crime rather than from all jobs simply on the basis of an arrest or conviction.

    Additionally, if Uber did, in fact, have no relationship with this man, then it’s a moot point. He was masquerading as an Uber driver, in the same way that some serial rapists or killers masquerade as cops or UPS drivers. A rule about requiring people to disclose convictions wouldn’t have saved Hannah Wilson.

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  2. Dr. Pool did a great job explaining the legal and concepts that Alexander points out in her book about the removal of background checks on job applications. I would like to put in my own ideas about the racial questions asked above about the situation that occurred in the Hannah Wilson case. If Messel were a black man the first thing that would have happened was a much larger amount of media attention to the case. As we have discussed multiple times in our class the media loves to draw the attention of the public to those minorities when they are doing something bad. It is as if they wish to keep the “white man” clean and show that everyone else is the bad person. This is sadly the truth and such a shame that this is what our media has come down to, but the fact is that when a white person and a black person are convicted of the same crime the black story is fed through the media more often than the white case. The question of the time spent in jail depending on race in this issue may have not changed however because of the fact that it was a straight forward case and he was found guilty because of the overwhelming amount of evidence against Messel that no matter what his race he was still going to be found guilty by a jury. I think in this case the question becomes more about human rights than civil rights as Alexander would argue. This is because the crime that was committed was so appalling and disgusting by any human he should have gone away for a very long time no matter what his race was.

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