On Monday afternoon in the atrium of the law school on the Newark, N.J. campus of Rutgers University, President Barack Obama announced that his administration would no longer allow most federal agencies to ask job applicants about their criminal backgrounds during the early stages of the federal hiring process. That change, called ‘ban the box’ by growing ranks of supporters, was announced by the president following a visit to a residential drug rehabilitation center and a roundtable with several former inmates who had been assisted by judges, prosecutors, and parole officers in making transitions to more stable circumstances.
For the crowd of about 150 who had been mingling in the room for several hours before the president’s late afternoon remarks, the ‘ban the box’ portion of the speech may have been Mr. Obama’s best line. As Donald Trump would have noticed, it got the biggest applause. That’s not surprising given that some of the New Jersey state legislators in the room had supported a state-level law banning inquires into many public and private sector job applicants’ criminal records. Signed in 2014 by N.J. Gov. and Republican presidential candidate Chris Christie, the law took effect earlier this year.
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