Illinois Governor Bans Criminal History Question on State Applications

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Those applying for a state job in Illinois will no longer be asked if they have ever been convicted of a crime, thanks to an administrative order from Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat.

While employers are still be permitted to perform background checks and are not obligated to hire convicts, jobseekers with criminal pasts do not need to check a box on the application form.

The “Ban the Box” order followed an effort by the Worker’s Center for Racial Justice, which had ex-criminals send hundreds of postcards to the governor requesting the removal of the box. According to center co-founder DeAngelo Bester, applications will now not be tossed aside at first glance due to past mistakes, offering people the chance to fully present their skills and capability.

One in four work-eligible adults has some type of criminal record, according to the National Employment Law Project, and employers often immediately dismiss their applications when they see “the box” has been checked. African-Americans are most at risk.

“I think that it’s important that employers hire the best qualified person that they feel comfortable with for the job,” said Illinois state Rep. LaShawn K. Ford (D-Chicago). “Employers in private (business) or state agencies should never hire a person that appears to not be a fit for the job.”

Ford cited the case of a friend who was convicted 50 years ago for carrying a small knife in his pocket, and would have previously been required to check “the box” on an application.

Although the administrative order is not yet law, plans are in the works to pass legislation. This would make it more difficult to overturn the ban once Quinn leaves office.

Along with Illinois, nine other states have enacted some type of “ban the box” initiative.

Sources: In These Times, CBS Chicago