Ban the box: Harris County to stop asking about criminal histories during hiring – Houston Chronicle

Applicants for jobs in Harris County government will no longer be asked about their criminal history during the initial hiring stages, according to a proposal from County Attorney Christian Menefee.

The initiative is intended to remove barriers to employment for residents who have been convicted of a crime, or merely arrested, in the past.

“This policy is about removing the stigma for these folks, and giving them a fair opportunity in the employment process,” Menefee said. “We know that the number one factor increasing recidivism among ex-offenders in ensuring they’re able to obtain and maintain stable employment.”

Menefee, the first Black person elected to the post he holds, said the iniative is particularly important for minorities and people of color, who are disprortionately affected by the criminal justice system.

Harris County hiring managers would still be able to investigate an applicant’s background, though only after extending a conditional offer of employment. The purpose of this rule, Menefee said, is to ensure applicants aren’t unfairly screened out because of previous offenses.

Commissioners Court is expected to approve the measure Thursday.

It would only apply to departments overseen by the body, though Menefee encouraged the county’s other elected officials to follow suit.

He acknowledged that some departments, such as the sheriff’s and constables offices, use criminal background checks early in their hiring processes, and for good reason.

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