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St. Louis County is ‘banning the box’ for most government applicants

St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger signs an executive order that bans county officials from reviewing an applicants criminal history during the initial application process. June 11, 2018.
Chad Davis | St. Louis Public Radio
St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger on Monday signs an executive order that bans county officials from reviewing an applicant's criminal history during the initial application process.

Most job applicants in St. Louis County will no longer have to provide their criminal history in their initial job application.

The policy commonly known as “ban the box” will prevent county officials from accessing criminal records during the first step of the job application process. St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger signed an executive order Monday putting the policy into immediate effect.

“It’s all about a second shot, a second chance and giving people a fair chance,” Stenger said. “When you start talking about recidivism and you talk about how important jobs are to those who have had issues in our criminal justice system to stay out of our criminal justice system.”

Stenger’s office cited a study by the George Warren Brown School of Social Work at Washington University. The report found that 72 percent of those released from prison who fail to find full-time work return to prison after two years.

St. Louis County now joins the city of St. Louis and the state of Missouri in reducing the emphasis that a prior conviction or arrest record has during a job search. Former St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay passed a similar policy in 2014 while former Gov. Jay Nixon signed the “ban the box” policy for the state in 2016.

“The council has been considering this for about six months,” Stenger said. “I just wanted to move it forward and we were able to move it forward through an executive order.”

The order applies only to applicants seeking a job in St. Louis County government. Private employers are not subject to this change, but Stenger said he wants to see more employers take on this policy.

Michael McMillan, president and CEO of the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, enthusiastically endorsed Stenger’s executive order.

“What you are doing today is to help a generation of people be able to receive an opportunity in St. Louis County that they otherwise would not be able to do,” he said.

The Urban League runs the Save Our Sons program, which provides job training for economically-disadvantaged African-American men and helps them find job positions.

“Over 50 percent of the men who have gone through Save Our Sons have had some type of run-in with the law,” McMillan said.

The executive order prevents criminal history questions only during the initial review of applications. Officials can still review an individual’s criminal history after the first review.

Jobs within criminal justice services are exempt from the policy. That includes jobs in the St. Louis County Police Department, municipal courts and the prosecuting attorney’s office.

Follow Chad on Twitter @iamcdavis

Chad is a general assignment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.