Bibb "bans the box" on county job applications

Those who have been convicted of a crime will no longer have to explain that criminal history on Macon-Bibb County job applications.

It's called "banning the box," and commissioners voted 6 to 3 Tuesday night to remove any questions on the application that ask about criminal records.

The county would still perform background checks on any potential employees, but some say it offers a second chance for many who have made past mistakes, by giving them an opportunity to land an interview and explain their record in person.

Others say they don't support the idea.

For those whose records aren't squeaky clean, checking the criminal history box on job applications can be daunting.

"If I check this box, who's to say my application isn't going to end up in the wastebasket?" LaTonya Barnes said. "My skills and qualifications should stand on their own for the job I'm going to do."

Barnes dreams of one day running a homeless shelter.

She thought she left her mistakes behind until she started having trouble landing a steady job.

"Once they run my background and see I have a past, my qualifications go out the door," Barnes said.

She believes that single box lets her past affect her future.

"When I really want it, I lie. But I feel like that's what I have to do to provide for my family," Barnes said.

Others aren't so sure it's a good idea.

"I think that's a mistake," Commissioner Mallory Jones said.

Jones was one of three commissioners who voted not to ban the box. The other two were Commissioner Gary Bechtel and Mayor Pro-Tem Bert Bivins.

"I come from a world of full disclosure in my profession of real estate. I think employers need to ask that," Jones said.

He says some taxpayers in his district are concerned about the effects of banning the box.

"One constituent in particular asked me, 'Well, what about the fellow employees? Have you no regard for our safety if you're hiring a convicted felon?"

But for those who just want even one opportunity to do better, banning the box is a necessity.

"It shouldn't hinder me from working and taking care of my family and feeding them," Miller said. "If I come in and I'm honorable, give me a chance."

Jones says there isn't actually a physical box on county job applications, just three questions asking about criminal history.

He also said he believes it's the responsibility of the human resources department and the Mayor's administrative staff, not commissioners, to make decisions regarding the county's hiring practices.

The county attorney will now draft an ordinance removing those questions on Macon-Bibb job applications.

Then, commissioners will have to approve it before it takes effect.

Follow 13WMAZ's Anita Oh on Facebook at Anita Oh WMAZ and on Twitter @anita_oh.


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