When President Barack Obama became the first sitting president to ever visit a federal prison earlier this year as part of a feature-length VICE documentary, he promptly brought the pressing issue of prison reform to the mainstream conversation. In the months since that visit, Obama has been pushing harder than ever to break down the walls necessary to ensure a fairer system, an approach that has now landed a dramatic change in the hiring process for prospective federal employees.
Obama is announcing a "new order to reduce potential discrimination" against those with a criminal history during a visit to New Jersey, according to NBC News. The move is seen as a step toward a "ban the box" policy, an increasingly supported effort aimed at eliminating the "check a box for criminal history" portion of the application process by delaying the revelation of such history until much later in the process.
Current research shows that a criminal record can "reduce an employer’s interest in applicant by about 50 percent," according to NBC News, with a 2009 study adding that the "size of the penalty" for black applicants with a criminal record was double (60 percent) that of white applicants (30 percent). The Justice Department estimates that between 60 and 75 percent of former inmates find themselves unable to attain employment with their first year of freedom.