Job seekers applying for work with the state of Georgia will no longer need to disclose prior criminal convictions on their initial applications.
"Such policies will allow returning citizens an opportunity to explain their unique circumstances in person to a potential employer," read the order.
The initiative was recommended by Deal's criminal justice reform council in January 2014. The council's report said it was a barrier to employment that could exclude released inmates from consideration even if they are qualified for the job and the conviction has no bearing on the work.
It 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.
About 97 percent of those sentenced to prison in Georgia will eventually be released, and more than 1,300 re-enter society each month without employment, according to Deal's office.
The city of Atlanta in October endorsed similar procedures. And 13 states have adopted the policy, including New Mexico, New Jersey and Minnesota. Georgia would be the first state in the South to implement the initiative, Deal's office said.
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.
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