Speaking in front of an audience at a New Jersey drug treatment center, President Obama announced on Monday the passing of an executive order that will prevent employers from asking potential federal employees on their job applications if they have a criminal record.
“If the disclosure of a criminal record happens later in a job application process, you’re more likely to be hired,” Obama asserted. “If they have a chance to at least meet you, you’re able to talk to them about your life, what you’ve done, maybe they give you a chance.”
While the president has received criticism in the past for his use of executive orders to pass controversial legislation, it is less likely that this particular action will draw significant protest, as the measure has already received a good deal of bipartisan support. Chris Christie, the Republican governor where the announcement was made, has already passed “ban the box” legislation in his state; and another GOP presidential candidate—Kentucky senator Rand Paul—has co-sponsored a bill with Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) that would seal the criminal records of non-violent offenders. The leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination have voiced support for similar legislation.
“This is a great spotlight on the much bigger issue of the second prison in the United States, says Jesse Wiese, policy analyst for Justice Fellowship and director of Prison Fellowship’s Second Prison Project. “The message that millions of men and women with a criminal record are more than a number, but that they have value and can contribute to their communities, is what is at the heart of this policy. ”
“Unfortunately,” Wiese concludes, “removing one box on an application form, while a good start, is not enough to undo the decades of work that our society has done to construct the second prison.”
The Second Prison Project seeks to unlock second chances for those with criminal records by changing perceptions. Through acts of advocacy, leadership, and service, these men and women are given a chance to be productive members of their communities. To learn more about the Second Prison Project, visit www.secondprison.org.