OKLAHOMA CITY – In the past, state agencies would ask job applicants about prior felony convictions.
However, that changed on Wednesday.
Gov. Mary Fallin signed an executive order that tells state agencies to eliminate questions about prior felony convictions from job applications.
“Employment after a felony conviction is always a challenge, but the ability to gain employment is a critical and necessary component in reducing recidivism and for those individuals to lead productive and successful lives,” Fallin said. “Thus, we should remove unnecessary barriers to employment opportunities for Oklahomans with felony convictions… State hiring policies should allow full and fair consideration of all applicants.”
Oklahoma joins 19 states and more than 100 cities across the country in eliminating those questions.
The executive order only applies to state agencies, but the governor encourages private employers to consider adopting the policy.
However, background checks can still be completed and applicants may be asked questions during an interview about prior arrests.
Statistics show that one in 12 Oklahomans is a convicted felon. Currently, more than 55,000 people are in custody, most for non-violent offenses.
Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform released the following statement regarding the executive order.
“The Governor’s action to remove the “convicted felony” question from applications for state jobs sends a powerful message that Oklahoma believes in second chances,” said Kris Steele, chair of Oklahomans for Criminal Justice Reform. “It shows that Oklahoma is intent on utilizing all the talent within our workforce, and it affords tremendous hope to those in the process of rebuilding their lives. Often individuals transitioning from incarceration to the community become discouraged, disillusioned and return to anti-social behavior out of fear and frustration of being excluded from consideration of meaningful employment. Today’s Executive Order does not guarantee employment to anyone convicted of a crime, rather it allows such an individual the opportunity for an interview if they are qualified for the position. Having a chance to personally communicate the details surrounding a troubled past and the lessons learned will lead to informed, productive employment decisions. There is no such thing as a spare Oklahoman and this action allows our state to utilize the talent, skills and abilities of an often overlooked resource pool. Our communities are strongest and at their best when everyone is given the opportunity to contribute to the greater good.”