On April 11, Missouri Governor Jay Nixon signed Executive Order 16-04 directing state agencies to lessen unnecessary barriers to employment by removing questions relating to criminal history from initial employment applications. His executive order will “ban the box” in state employment by placing questions relating to criminal history later in the hiring process in order to provide applicants with a fair opportunity to compete for jobs. The E.O. directs all departments, agencies, and boards and commissions in Missouri’s executive branch subject to the authority of the governor to take all necessary action to amend initial employment applications by removing questions relating to an individual’s criminal history unless a criminal history would render an applicant specifically ineligible for the position. “This is about fairness,” Governor Nixon said. “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.” Approximately 96 percent of the individuals who are sentenced to prison will eventually return to their communities, the governor’s office noted. But formerly incarcerated individuals frequently encounter challenges in obtaining employment, which make it more difficult for them to successfully assimilate back into society. According to the Missouri Department of Corrections, the unemployment rate for Missourians on parole in 2015 was 44 percent. When formerly incarcerated individuals must include their criminal history on an initial employment application, many of these individuals may be automatically eliminated from consideration. “Ban the box” initiatives seek to combat this problem by delaying inquiries into an individual’s criminal history until later in the hiring process. “These men and women have paid their debt to society and are attempting to successfully return to their communities as productive, law-abiding citizens,” Nixon said. “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.”
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