Almost prophetically, the Macon-Bibb County Commission, led by the efforts of Commissioner Al Tillman, voted 6-3 to “Ban The Box.” Less than a week later, Gov. Nathan Deal, by executive order, banned the box for state job applicants. The box comes in many forms but requires an applicant to reveal any criminal history. That’s where most applications are tossed. Once a new ordinance is in place for Macon-Bibb, that information, on the initial application, won’t be required.
Finding a willing employer is just one of the largest obstacles standing in front of a released offender. Finding housing is another, and many released offenders end up homeless, without any support -- and they are banned for life from receiving food stamps. Former drug offenders can’t even get a driver’s license for six months. It’s an uphill slog. Georgia’s recidivism rate, according to Deal’s Council on Criminal Justice Reform, has been at 30 percent for a decade. The state’s prison population has more than doubled to 56,000 inmates since 1990. That’s costing taxpayers more than $1 billion annually. In the CJRC report, they expect the incarceration number to rise 8 percent in the next five years and cost another $264 million.
In that same report, released in January 2014, the council recommended that the state “‘ban the box’ on appropriate employment applications and instead require that the applicant disclose any criminal history during a face-to-face interview with the employing agency.” Those jobs where a criminal history would be an instant disqualification, public safety and jobs dealing with sensitive information, would still require the box.
The recommendations of the CJRC recognizes one clear fact: The vast majority of those incarcerated will, at some time in the future, be released. The governor, and now Macon-Bibb County, are taking steps to see that the transition back to a law-abiding life is made less difficult.