Georgia becomes first state in South to ban the box

Job seekers applying for work with the state of Georgia will no longer need to disclose prior criminal convictions on their initial applications.” The order provides that this new policy “will allow returning citizens an opportunity to explain their unique circumstances in person to a potential employer.”

The order requires state agencies to offer qualified applicants the chance in a follow-up interview to “contest the content and relevance of a criminal record” and provide information that demonstrates rehabilitation.

It carves out exceptions for those seeking “sensitive governmental positions” in which a criminal history would be an immediate disqualification. That includes jobs such as prison guards or security officers.

The initiative was recommended by Deal’s criminal justice reform council in January 2014. The council’s report said that the question asking applicants to report a criminal record on an initial employment application is a barrier to employment that could exclude individuals from consideration even if they are qualified for the job and the conviction has no bearing on the work.  The council urged instead a requirement that the applicant disclose any criminal history during a face-to-face interview with the hiring agent.

Deal has long suggested he would sign an order banning state agencies from including the question as part of broader criminal justice changes aimed at helping released inmates transition more smoothly back into society.

“If they can find employment, if they can find a place to live, I believe many of them will work hard to earn their place in society,” Deal said in an April 2013 speech outlining the next phase of his criminal justice reform plan.

Georgia joins 13 other states that have adopted a ban-the-box policy, including New Mexico, Delaware, New Jersey and Minnesota.  While the City of Atlanta has had a ban-the-box policy since last fall, the state-wide order makes Georgia the first state in the South to implement the initiative.