PHOTO BY DANNY WICENTOWSKI
If you're an ex-con, the state of Missouri wants to consider your application just like anyone else's.
A new executive order signed by Governor Jay Nixon yesterday seeks to "ban the box," barring initial employment applications in state government from asking about an applicant's criminal history, unless that history is directly related to the position.
In issuing the order, Nixon is moving to have Missouri join 21 other states and employers including Target and Walmart. The federal government under President Obama also instituted such an order last fall.
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“These men and women have paid their debt to society and are attempting to successfully return to their communities as productive, law-abiding citizens,” Gov. Nixon in a press release. “By giving these Missourians a fair chance to get a job and support their families, ‘ban the box’ policies can help to break the cycle of crime and incarceration.”
State agencies will still be able to ask about criminal records later in the hiring process. But by then, the hope is that rehabilitated applicants will be able to make the case that they deserve a second chance.
The move is part of a broader attempt to reintegrate worthy offenders into society — and a sense that some of the get-tough-on-crime policies of previous decades may have swept up too many people in their dragnet.
Last week, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development also outlined rules designed to stop landlords from discriminating from those with criminal records
. As with these employment policies, there is no prohibition on discrimination based on an applicant's criminal record, but the agency is striving for a balancing act. "Property owners must prove that the exclusion is justified and consider factors like the nature and severity of the crime in assessing prospective tenants before excluding someone," according to the New York Times
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