Travis County has announced it is eliminating the criminal conviction box from employment applications for county jobs; the question will be asked later in the process based on the sensitivity of the work involved. Meanwhile, the U.S. military says the number of felons joining has doubled to more than 500.

Our research indicates that these are positive developments. Ex-offenders who are employed are at least three times less likely to re-offend, and are much more likely to pay whatever restitution and child support they owe.

Yes, this movement can be taken too far. A recent proposal by D.C. Councilman and former Mayor Marion Berry overreaches by banning private employers from considering criminal convictions. Employers should be free to consider an applicant’s past conduct, but government entities — both in their own employment decisions and occupational licensing — should ensure that all barriers are limited to where the nature of the work would make it more likely that the same type of offense would be repeated or have greater impact. Examples include a child sex predator working in a day care center or an embezzler managing funds.

With the growing number of retirees and the crackdown on illegal immigration, there is a growing need to lower government barriers to employment so that more ex-offenders can punch the clock after serving their time.

– Marc Levin