Editorial: 'Banning the box' in Arizona is the right move

Governor Doug Ducey

Governor Doug Ducey

America loves redemption stories, our history is filled with them. It seems no matter what you have done, if you go on television, apologize, maybe throw in a few tears, the people of this country will give you another chance.

We want to believe people can change.

Gov. Doug Ducey this week took a step toward showing that this week by banning the box on application forms for state jobs that asks if you’ve ever been convicted of a felony.

Reaction on social media has been mixed. Some have serious reservations about it, and that’s understandable. Others want to give people a second chance.

The Town of Prescott Valley implemented its own version of banning the box in 2012.

“Removing some employment barriers is important in our community as when ex-offenders have jobs, their chances of re-offending drop significantly,” Karen Smith, the town’s human resources director, wrote in an email.

It makes sense. If you have been convicted of a serious crime and you check that box on the form, there are many people who will automatically toss aside your application. Your qualifications won’t matter and you will have no chance at getting the job.

If you want to help push someone back into bad behavior, not giving them a chance at a new life is an excellent way to do it.

As Smith points out, not having that box on the initial application does not mean that the town doesn’t know about the conviction later in the process because all employees go through a background check. They can also ask about any convictions later in the process. In Prescott Valley’s case, they learn of any convictions during the job offer phase. It is then that they can do some research, look at the circumstances of the conviction, and then determine if they want to go through with the job offer.

If they determine that the job and the applicant are not a good fit because of that conviction, they can rescind the offer or not make an offer.

That is essentially the same thing Gov. Ducey has proposed on the state level. Arizona joins 28 other states, Smith wrote, in banning the box and giving people who have already paid their debt to society a fair chance at a new life.

This editorial board does have some reservations about forcing the same on the private sector, which nine states have done. Each business should decide for itself how it wants to hire people and government should take a step back and let them do it (within the usual caveats about not discriminating against protected classes).

Gov. Ducey deserves credit for signing this executive order. His intentions are noble, and because of the background check, no one is going to slip through into a state job without his employers knowing about the past when the time is appropriate.

However, this step does give them a fair shot at a state job.

Forgiveness, showing compassion, recognizing that we are all imperfect is part of most religions. Giving others an opportunity to turn their lives around and become productive members of our society, instead of being a drain on it, is something we should all embrace.

It is also very American.