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It’s official. Governor Nathan Deal signed an executive order on February 23rd to “ban the box” on applications for state employment in Georgia. This order will remove the question about felony convictions from the initial job application and postpone it to a later point in the hiring process. This policy is intended to provide those with a criminal record a fair shot at showing employers why they are the best candidate for a job without being automatically screened from the hiring process simply because they have a felony conviction.

The Governor laid out specific hiring practices that government entities of the State of Georgia shall follow:

  1. Prohibit the use of a criminal record as an automatic bar to employment.
  2. Prevent the use of an application form that inappropriately excludes and discriminates against qualified job applicants.
  3. Promote the accurate use and interpretation of a criminal record.
  4. Provide qualified applicants with the opportunity to discuss any inaccuracies, contest the content and relevance of a criminal record, and provide information that demonstrates rehabilitation.
  5. Require initial disclosure on applications for sensitive governmental positions in which a criminal history would be an immediate disqualification.

Georgia is joining thirteen other states who have implemented a fair hiring policy and is the first state in the South to do so. This policy will help to remove a barrier to employment for those with a criminal record by opening up more job opportunities for which motivated returning citizens may be qualified. The state is setting the example for how county, city, and private employers could aid people leaving prison in the reintegration process by giving them a fair shot at jobs for which they are good candidates.

Georgia Center for Opportunity (GCO) applauds the important step taken by the Governor to “ban the box” as well as the efforts of all those who have been involved in working to increase employment opportunities for returning citizens in Georgia. In December 2013, GCO published a report recommending that the state “ban the box” and set the example for private employers by hiring and maintaining qualified returning citizens as employees. This recent executive order is the first step in seeing this fulfilled.

In addition, GCO is pleased to see several other recommendations from our December 2013 report currently being considered by the General Assembly or state agencies. These recommendations include offering a State Work Opportunity Tax Credit to incentivize employers to hire returning citizens, lifting professional license restrictions for those with felony convictions, and ensuring identification is secured prior to a person’s release from prison.

As Georgia continues to take positive steps forward in removing barriers to opportunity among those involved with the criminal justice system, the public should begin to see more examples of returning citizens who are not only making it in society, but flourishing.

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