Gov. Nixon signs executive order to “ban the box” in state employment

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Gov. Jay Nixon has signed an executive order to break down some of the barriers for people with criminal histories trying to enter the workforce.

Nixon visited the St. Louis Agency on Training and Employment on Monday to sign Executive Order 16-04, also known as the effort to “ban the box,” referring to the the check box on many employment applications that ask if the applicant has a criminal record. The order applies to employment with state agencies.

State employers may still request information about an applicant’s criminal past, but the governor’s order places those questions later in the application process, thereby giving individuals with past mistakes a fighting chance of landing a job.

“The action I’m taking today will ensure that state government continues to be a model for increasing economic opportunity, improving public safety, and strengthening communities,” Gov. Nixon said in a statement. “This is about fairness. Giving folks a fair chance to redeem their lives, support their families and make a contribution to their communities is a value we share as Missourians and as Americans.”

Finding a decent job is a perpetual challenge for many people with criminal pasts, and the questions about criminal records often result in applications automatically eliminated from consideration. According to the Missouri Department of Corrections, the unemployment rate for Missourians on parole in 2015 was 44 percent.

Empower Missouri, an organization dedicated to providing “the leadership, research, education and advocacy to improve public policies and programs impacting the health and welfare of all people in Missouri,” tweeted thanks to the governor for signing the order.

“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’s statement added. “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.”

“Ban the box” policies have already been enacted in 21 states. Several corporations have adopted their own policy including Target, Walmart, Home Depot, Koch Industries, Starbucks, and Facebook.