Today Georgia joined thirteen states to become the first in the South to enact the fair hiring policy known as “ban the box.” This policy, signed into law by Governor Nathan Deal through an executive order, postpones questions about a job applicant’s criminal history until it is demonstrated that he or she is one of the most qualified candidates. The policy also requires that the applicant have the opportunity to explain his or her criminal history before denial, and that only a relevant conviction will be used as the basis for disqualification.
Currently as many as 3.8 million, or one in three, people have a criminal record in Georgia and the state has long been considered to be one of the hardest in the country for someone to get a job when the box is checked. The research is clear that the best indicator of whether a person with a record will be rearrested is their ability to secure stable employment. Often, however, after applicants indicate on the job application that they have a criminal history, employers often issue a denial without considering whether the applicant is qualified for the position or if his or her history is even relevant to the job for which they have applied.
As an employer, the state of Georgia was not setting a good example of how applicants with criminal records should be considered in order to reduce recidivism, increase tax revenue and improve public safety. The fourth question on the former state employment application asked about criminal convictions — before work history, education or even the title of the position for which the person was applying.
But today, Georgia took a positive step towards reducing the challenges to securing employment for people with criminal histories in our state and followed the 2014 recommendation from the Georgia Council on Criminal Justice Reform to implement a hiring policy will more fairly consider applicants with criminal histories. The new hiring policy does not affect whether applicants for state employment will be asked about their criminal histories, just when and how. Under the new hiring policy, the question will not be asked until after the applicant has proven they are one of the most qualified and the applicant will get the chance to explain their criminal history before being denied a state job.
“Ban the box” has been a top priority for the Georgia Justice Project for the last two years and we are planning an event next week for the community, and to thank those individuals and organizations who worked so hard to make this happen. Please stay tuned for details.