Proposed new rule gives people with criminal records ‘fair shot’ to join U.S. federal civil service

By on 10/05/2016 | Updated on 25/09/2020
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is the independent agency of the United States government that manages the civil service of the federal government

The U.S. government agency in charge of managing the federal civil service has proposed a new rule giving people with criminal records a better chance to be considered for government jobs.

The new rule, put forward by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), was published on the Federal Register earlier this month.

It would delay the point in the hiring process at which agencies can inquire about an applicant’s criminal history until a conditional offer is made.

This change, OPM acting director Beth Cobert said, would prevent candidates from “being eliminated before they have a chance to demonstrate their qualifications” and “would ensure that applicants with a criminal history have a fair shot to compete for federal jobs.”

Earlier inquiries into an applicant’s criminal history “may discourage motivated, well-qualified individuals who have served their time from applying for a federal job,” Cobert said.

Every year, more more than 600,000 people are released from federal and state prisons in the U.S., with millions more released from local jails.

One in three working-age Americans has an arrest record, Cobert wrote in a blog post.

Promoting the rehabilitation and reintegration of “people who have paid their debt to society is a critical piece of the administration’s efforts to make the nation’s criminal justice system more fair and effective,” she said.

The OPM says its proposal complies with the government’s general merit system principle and the goal to enhance “safeguards to prevent the undue denial of federal employment opportunities to the unemployed and those facing financial difficulty through no fault of their own” as stated by president Barack Obama in a 2014 memorandum.

The intended effect of this proposal is to better ensure that “applicants from all segments of society, including those with prior criminal histories, receive a fair opportunity to compete for federal employment,” according to the Federal Register.

Members of the public are invited to comment on the proposed change.

Click here for further information.


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About Winnie Agbonlahor

Winnie is news editor of Global Government Forum. She previously reported for Civil Service World - the trade magazine for senior UK government officials. Originally from Germany, Winnie first came to the UK in 2006 to study a BA in Journalism & Russian at the University of Sheffield. She is bilingual in English and German, and, after spending an academic year abroad in Russia and reporting for the Moscow Times, Winnie also speaks Russian fluently.


  1. Keenya Benson says:

    I really want to be in the loop of this.

  2. Keenya Benson says:

    This will allow people a second chance in life.

  3. Presskh says:

    I agree with this for non-violent, first-time offenders. Once punishment has been served, I think people should be given a second chance to put this behind them and become productive citizens.

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