A proposed law would revamp the federal workforce criminal background check system.

Dubbed the Fair Chance Act, the proposal would ban the federal government, including federal contractors and federal agencies, from requesting or asking for the criminal history of some applicants until after the applicant receives a conditional offer for employment.

“Empowering people with records to become productive members of society instead of repeat offenders is not only fiscally sound, it’s the morally responsible thing to do,” said one of the bill’s supporters, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat. “There are millions of Americans with records who are quickly passed over by employers without considering their skills or qualifications because of their history.”

Currently, the proposal has both Democratic and Republican supporters in the House and Senate, including U.S. Reps. Darrell Issa (R-California) and Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas).

“About nine percent of Americans — roughly 20 million people — have a felony conviction in the United States,” Rep. Issa said in a statement posted on Sen. Booker’s website. “Unfortunately, current practice ensures that the 18-year-old who makes a mistake will not only pay for his crime through the justice system, but will continue to be punished for the rest of his life, as he or she is disqualified out-of-hand from consideration for federal employment opportunities, even when qualified for the position.”

The bill would also:

“Include important exceptions for positions related to law enforcement and national security duties, positions requiring access to classified information, and positions for which access to criminal history information before the conditional offer stage is required by law.”

  • “Require the Department of Labor, U.S. Census Bureau, and Bureau of Justice Statistics to issue a report on the employment statistics of formerly incarcerated individuals.”

According to the announcement, more than 70 million Americans have criminal histories ranging from civil offenses to felonies and because of that “they face improbable odds in obtaining a job as a result of an arrest or criminal conviction.”

The legislation’s supporters note that the bill is aimed at reducing recidivism by ensuring individuals with criminal records are not deterred from becoming productive members of society today, just because of blemishes on their record due to poor decisions in the past.

“Studies show that a criminal record reduces the likelihood of a callback or job offer by nearly 50 percent for men in general,” according to the announcement. “For individuals trying to turn the page on a difficult chapter in their lives, a criminal conviction poses a substantial barrier to employment.”

Presently, federal employers can ask about an applicant’s criminal history at any point in the hiring process.

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