Portland Dumps 1 Problematic Application Question. It Could Change Lives.

Lauren Burgoon
Portland, Oregon, joins the "ban the box" movement in a bid to change its workforce.

One of the hardest transitions for ex-cons to make is getting back into the workforce. Especially in a down economy, having a criminal record can doom you.

Portland, Oregon, is taking questions about criminal background off of its city employment application to create a more "diverse" workforce, The Oregonian reports.

There's not just a negative perception of ex-criminals; those with criminal records are also "self-selecting" and not applying for jobs, the city found. By removing the questions, city officials hope people with criminal backgrounds will be more likely to apply. 

Portland's decision is part of the "ban the box" movement to remove criminal history questions from job applications. Roughly fifty percent of ex-prisoners could not find jobs, one survey found. "Ban the box" supporters say higher employment rates will mean less recidivism and less taxpayer money spent on re-incarcerating offenders.

The policy comes with limits. Crimes related to a potential job, like a DUI conviction for a driving-heavy job or felons applying to the police force, will still disqualify people. And a criminal background check will still be part of the application process, but toward the later stages.