Maricopa County to drop upfront questions about convictions

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(Source: Colorado Center on Law & Policy) (Source: Colorado Center on Law & Policy)

Arizona's most populous county is following the lead of state government by no longer asking most job applicants during early stages of the hiring process whether they have prior criminal convictions.

Maricopa County officials say the policy change approved by the Board of Supervisors and announced Wednesday is a way to lower recidivism rates and provide more opportunities for people who have served their sentences.

“What we’re doing is freeing up managers to consider the most qualified candidate for the job from the very start,” said Jan Plank, Maricopa County Human Resources Director.  “If the person we want to hire has a criminal history, it will turn up in the background check.  Then the hiring manager can weigh all factors and make the appropriate decision in conjunction with Human Resources.”

An executive order signed last month by Gov. Doug Ducey has the state government is implementing a similar policy.

[READ MORE: New hiring policy by Arizona agencies could curb recidivism]

[WATCH: Gov. Doug Ducey talks about "Second Chance Box"]

County officials say the change to no longer ask about applicants' criminal records on initial applications except for specific departments takes effect Jan. 1.

Applicants will still be required to undergo background checks once they've shown themselves qualified for the job.

“I applaud Gov. Ducey for his leadership in eliminating this question from state employment applications," Board of Supervisors Chairman Denny Barney (District 1) said in a news release. "Implementing the same practice at the county makes sense because we want to help those with a criminal past integrate back into society so there is less chance they will reoffend. People who get jobs are less likely to go back to jail.  That is good for individuals and taxpayers. The county will still run criminal background checks prior to a person’s hire, so this is not a case of turning a blind eye.  It’s a way to make sure everyone who wants to work for Maricopa County gets a fair shot.”

[RELATED: Arizona bans the box requiring a criminal history]

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