Job seekers with criminal pasts got welcome news last week when Gov. Snyder issued a directive to remove the question of a criminal record from initial screenings for state jobs. This “ban the box” initiative applies only to state government jobs, but it’s a step in the right direction for the about one in three adults with an arrest or conviction in their past who face many obstacles to re-entering the workforce. Bills to eliminate the box on all job applications – in the public and private sectors – have been introduced in recent years but have not passed the Michigan Legislature. That’s the logical next step as the unemployment rate is low and the need for workers high. But let’s pause first to celebrate Snyder’s appropriate decision. “While a job applicant’s criminal record is certainly a relevant consideration in an employment decision, applicants who are filtered out of the process at the beginning simply for having a record are denied the opportunity to show their qualifications,” Snyder said in the directive. Well said, Governor. Eliminating the box doesn’t dismiss the relevance of a criminal record in determining employment. It gives applicants a chance to sell themselves based on the combination of their qualifications and experience, rather than being defined by one aspect of their life. The ability to get a job is “an essential part of successful re-entry” for those being released from prison, according to Snyder. Snyder and Michigan are not unique. Michigan joins 32 states and 150 cities across the nation that have implemented ‘ban the box’ or ‘fair chance’ policies for their own hiring practices, according to the National Employment Law Project. In at least 11 states, there are state laws that prohibit private sector employers from asking about a criminal history during initial candidate screening. Yet, in Michigan, legislators not only failed to pass such statewide legislation, they also passed a separate law that prevents Michigan cities from implementing their own “ban the box” initiatives. That is a backward approach to a very real problem. People with a criminal record deserve second chances. Without employment, they can’t support themselves or their families. They’re also more likely to re-offend. Employers still have the right to conduct background checks and ask pointed questions of potential candidates. Snyder’s directive offers the opportunity for candidates to prove they’re more than a criminal record – by focusing on experience and qualifications first. Gov. Snyder has set a good example. Michigan lawmakers should follow suit.