The Atlanta ordinance carves out exceptions for those seeking positions that require state or federal background checks, such as public safety jobs or for those working with children.
Xochitl Bervera, co-director of the Racial Justice Action Center, said that employment is the primary hurdle for people upon leaving prison or jail, and impacts whether they are likely to be re-incarcerated. While applicants will no longer be asked to indicate prior convictions, nothing prohibits the city from conducting its own background check later in the process, she said. The legislation provides guidance on how such information should be used.
“I think our hope is that people who have prior convictions will feel confident in applying for jobs at the city of Atlanta, and that we’ll see a rise in people who are qualified, skilled and want to be working,” she said.
She’s now calling on city vendors to implement similar bans in their respective businesses.
Fulton County adopted “ban the box” legislation earlier this year, and supporters plan to rally Gov. Nathan Deal to issue an executive order on the matter later this month, she said. Deal has previously signaled support for the initiative.
Marilynn Winn, with a grassroots organization of women with prior convictions called Women on the Rise, also applauded the move. She said she’s experienced first-hand the negative effects of disclosing past crimes on a job application.
“I may have all the skills and qualifications, but if I’m asked to check that box, I can’t even get an interview,” she said in a statement. “Everybody deserves the chance to work and put food on their table and a roof over their head.”