Politics & Government

Bevin orders ‘fair chance’ for workers with criminal past seeking state jobs

Gov. Matt Bevin signs an executive order to give felons a “fair chance” in applying for state jobs.
Gov. Matt Bevin signs an executive order to give felons a “fair chance” in applying for state jobs. jbrammer@herald-leader.com

Saying everyone deserves a second chance, Gov. Matt Bevin signed an executive order Wednesday to allow people with criminal records to avoid checking a box on applications for state jobs that indicates they have a criminal past.

State employers still could follow up on applicants’ criminal records in interviews. The executive order does not apply to private businesses but Bevin encouraged them to follow the state’s example.

Bevin, at a news conference in the Capitol Rotunda, said Kentucky is the 25th state to allow the so-called “fair chance” policy for felons seeking state jobs.

“Ours is a nation of second chances, founded upon core principles that include mercy and redemption,” said Bevin. “The simple act of removing this box (on state job applications) will help to level the playing field for all applicants, and it is my sincere hope that many of the private employers in our state will consider doing the same thing.”

Justice Secretary John Tilley said the new policy could affect hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians and is expected to reduce recidivism and improve public safety.

Employment is a key factor in keeping people from re-offending, according to several national studies. Estimates from the National Employment Law Project indicate that nearly 70 million people in the United States have a criminal record of some type.

Tilley stressed that state executive branch agencies may still inquire about criminal records before interviewing an applicant, and may consider criminal history when making hiring decisions.

However, postponing that inquiry until after the initial application provides applicants with a better opportunity to explain their background, he said..

“We want to make sure everyone gets fair consideration for the jobs that make our commonwealth run,” said Personnel Secretary Tom Stephens.

More than 150 cities and counties across the nation — including Louisville — have also adopted fair chance hiring practices.

Bevin said his order builds on Kentucky’s effort to enact smart criminal justice reforms that enhance public safety while also rehabilitating offenders.

Last year, he signed legislation to allow for expungement of certain low-level felonies after a person has completed the terms of their criminal sentence. The legislature also is expected to consider a criminal justice reform bill when they return to Frankfort next week.

Jack Brammer: (502) 227-1198, @BGPolitics