PHOTO: St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger signs an executive order removing questions about a job candidate’s criminal history from initial applications for employment within county government on Monday at the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis.
FERGUSON — Potential employees convicted of a crime seeking government employment will no longer have to check the box in St. Louis County.
Under an executive order signed Monday at the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, County Executive Steve Stenger “banned the box” for people seeking a government job within the county. The order, which went into effect immediately, removes questions about job candidates’ criminal history from initial applications for employment within county government.
“Banning the Box is critical for two reasons,” Stenger said. “First, it aligns with my priority to help all county residents — regardless of their circumstances — to reach their full potential. Second, it makes sense from a practical standpoint as full-time employment is proven to promote rehabilitation while reducing recidivism rates.”
The order will only apply to the initial application process and would not eliminate questions about the candidates’ criminal background until further along in the process.
“Ban the Box” will not apply to jobs relating the criminal justice, such as the St. Louis County Police Department, judicial administration, municipal courts, the prosecuting attorney’s office, the county counselor’s office or to park rangers.
In 2016, Missouri became the 22nd state to implement “Ban the Box” laws to prevent employment screeners from asking about criminal background during initial interviews for government jobs.
While the order only pertains to employment within county government, Stenger said he hoped private sector employers would follow his lead.
“A parolee’s failure to find full-time employment becomes, quite frankly, a serious public safety issue affecting every county resident,” Stenger said. “Without a decent job, ex-prisoners are far more likely to struggle with substance abuse, become homeless and potentially have issues with our criminal justice system.
“In short, by helping these men and women to find gainful employment, we also help all of St. Louis County. This is about giving people a fair shot.”
Following the events of Ferguson in 2014, Stenger gave tax credits to the Urban League of St. Louis, allowing them to build their current St. Louis headquarters in Ferguson.
Mike McMillan, President and CEO of the Urban League of St. Louis, called the signing of the executive order an important day in county government.
“This is truly a historic day for St. Louis in terms of where we stand as a region, what we wish to do and the messages we wish to send to people who have been through the criminal justice system,” McMillan said.
The Urban League is a nonpartisan civil rights organization that advocates on behalf of African Americans and against racial discrimination in the United States.
McMillan noted that the Save Our Sons program, a branch of the Urban League which was born out of the Ferguson crisis as a way to help find males employment in the region, has had over 400 men graduate from their program with a 900 percent placement rate for full- or part-time jobs.
“What you are doing today is to help a next generation of people be able to receive an opportunity in St. Louis County that they otherwise would not be able to do,” McMillan said.