Most departments in Johnson County, Kansas, will no longer ask questions about criminal convictions on their job applications. The move is in support of the Fair Chance Hiring initiative, a campaign started by the National Employment Labor Project to give people with criminal records better access to jobs.
A study by the American Journal of Sociology shows that individuals with a criminal record are 50 percent less likely to receive an interview for entry level positions. County Manager Hannes Zacharias wants to change that.
“We have correction employees that indeed counsel individuals to change their lives," says Zacharias. "We believe that people have changed when they come out of the system, so we want to honor that by at least allowing them to apply for positions and not having to check the box.”
After an applicant has been interviewed, but before a job offer is extended, Johnson County Government will ask if the applicant has been convicted of a felony.
"If you're convicted you know that if you check that box you're not going to make the application. That's the problem. People don't even try. We're trying to say, 'Please try,' and then we'll vet you out later on in the process if it's not appropriate," says Zacharias.
Law enforcement and selected public safety positions will still include criminal history questions on their applications. Other metro area cities, such as Kansas City, Missouri, Grandview, Missouri, and Kansas City, Kansas, have already adopted Fair Hiring Initiative policies.
Hannah Copeland is an announcer and contributor for KCUR 89.3. Follow her on Twitter @hannahecopeland.