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Atlanta City Council Codifies Job Application Change To Help Ex-Offenders

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Those applying for jobs with the city of Atlanta no longer must disclose criminal convictions on their initial application. It’s part of a larger effort to help ex-offenders get in the door for interviews and stay out of jail.

The policy has actually been in place since Mayor Kasim Reed ordered the change in January 2013. This week, Atlanta City Council unanimously voted to make it law.

Marilyn Winn of the advocacy group Women on the Rise helped council members craft the legislation.

“People with backgrounds really have been discriminated against,” said Winn. “We can save money. We can lower crime rates. And people are able to work and be self-sustainable and care for their families.”

Winn is a part of a national movement called “Ban the Box.” Dozens of local governments across the country are removing the conviction checkmark box from their job applications.   

Winn says it’s not about getting anything past employers.

“It’s not to hide the background at all. Of course I want to know who I’m working with. It only enhances the chance for a person to get through to a fair interview,” said Winn.

Fulton County this summer got rid of the box. In addition, Gov. Nathan Deal, who has made criminal justice reform a top priority, has expressed support for the idea. Deal spokeswoman Sasha Dlugolenski said the governor intends to issue an executive order “before the General Assembly reconvenes.” She said it will, “afford some with blemishes on their record a shot at a good job, which is key to preventing a return to crime.”