Arizona bans the box requiring a criminal history

Arizona bans the box requiring a criminal history

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed an executive order instructing all state agencies to adopt new hiring practices that don't discriminate against people who have been arrested or been in prison.

The Governor calls it "The Second Chance" order.

The state joins Pima County and Tucson which have already joined the "ban the box" movement.

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Job applications generally ask the applicant to check a box indicating whether they have an arrest record or have been incarcerated.

Frequently, those applications are never considered.

Banning the box does not mean the applicant will not have a background check or screening, only that the the check will happen later in the process.

"It evens up the playing field," said Manny Mejias, who spent 20 years in prison but is now employed full time by the Pima Prevention Partnership. "Now I can actually be seen for the merits of my abilities and my talents instead of just that box, just that check mark."

Studies have shown that the former inmates who are most at risk to repeat crimes are those without jobs. By giving them a chance to compete, some of those inmates may find a job, thus lowering the recidivism rate.

"All Arizonans, no matter their background or past mistakes, deserve a chance to make a living and a better life for themselves and their families," said Ducey. "If you served your time and paid your debt to society, you should have the opportunity for a real second chance."

26-year-old John Thrasher of Tucson knows full well what it's like to make a mistake and then pay for it without a second chance.

He was charged with drug possession at 19 and has spent the past seven years looking for work without much success.

"It seems they discriminate against me because of my criminal record," he said. "It's depressing, it feels hopeless."

Thrasher lives under a bridge on Stone Avenue and works odd jobs when he gets the chance. He was picked up a second time for shoplifting which has added to his troubles.

"I needed to survive," he said.

It's not unusual for many ex-cons to repeat.

"It happens all the time," said Mejias. "People get out and they have no other recourse but to go back to the same criminal activity to survive because no one will give them a second chance."

The Governor estimates 1.5 million Arizonans have a criminal past and studies show their chance of getting a call back is reduced by 50 percent.

By getting more of them back to work the Governor says it will save taxpayer resources and boost the state's economy.

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