The South Fulton City Council passed Ordinance 2019-004, its “Ban the Box” legislation, at the regular meeting on Jan. 22 with a vote of 6 to 1. Sponsored by Mayor Pro Tem and District 7 Councilman Mark Baker, the legislation prevents prospective city employees who have previously been convicted of a crime from being automatically disqualified during the selection process.
The legislation does not prohibit the city’s hiring managers from asking questions about an applicant’s criminal history during the interview stage. Additionally, background checks will still be used to screen applicants where there is a statutory duty to do so.
The legislation also extends to companies that enter into a contract with the city in the amount of $25,000 or more. It requires them to extend the same grace to individuals hired to fulfill the contract.
Baker calls the legislation progressive and hopes it will benefit former criminals who are committed to becoming responsible citizens.
“The way we reduce crime is by creating more choices to deter people from committing crimes in the first place,” said Baker. “We need to ask ourselves are they qualified, can they do the work, and do they possess the skill? This will reduce recidivism and incite us to plan more restorative events especially for nonviolent offenders.” Baker cited National Employment Law Project data outlining the 33 states and over 150 cities and counties that have adopted similar legislation. The City of Atlanta adopted the legislation in 2014. Former Governor Nathan Deal signed a “ban the box” executive order in 2015, making Georgia the 14th state to adopt the practice. The order was based on recommendations in a criminal justice reform report published the year prior.
Following the passing of the legislation in South Fulton, Baker plans to push other measures for removing barriers to employment for those with criminal records.
“I am working with Solicitor Keith Gammage to plan and host several events in the near future that will offer criminal record expungement of a person’s arrest history, particularly in the Old National area,” said Baker. “We have to get our people back to work.”
Photo: City of South Fulton