A bill authored by U.S. Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Ron Johnson (R-WI) to give formerly incarcerated individuals a fairer shot at finding employment passed the House of Representatives, as part of a larger package related to military defense.

The Fair Chance Act would:

  • Prevent the federal government—including the executive, legislative, and judicial branches—from requesting criminal history information from applicants until they reach the conditional offer stage.
  • Prohibit federal contractors from requesting criminal history information from candidates for positions within the scope of federal contracts until the conditional offer stage.
  •  Include important exceptions for positions related to law enforcement and national security duties, positions requiring access to classified information, and positions for which access to criminal history information before the conditional offer stage is required by law.
  • Require the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in coordination with the U.S. Census Bureau, to issue a report on the employment statistics of formerly incarcerated individuals..

“Today’s passage marks an important step toward giving formally incarcerated Americans the dignity and justice they deserve to contribute to our nation,” Senator Booker said. “This legislation will remove the steep hurdles that deny individuals who have paid their debt to society from finding a job and allow them to have the dignity of work."

“I’m pleased to see support for the Fair Chance Act is growing in Congress,” Senator Johnson said. “I’ll continue to work with my colleagues to pass this legislation that will help people leaving prison get back to work and turn their lives around.” 

On the Senate side, the Fair Chance Act passed out of the Senate's Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in February. The bill has cleared that Senate Committee each of the last three sessions of Congress. It now awaits a vote before the full Senate.