President Obama has joined the conversation by proposing executive action to ban the box on federal hires.
"Like a lot of big employers, the federal government should not, I believe, screen out applicants ... simply because of a mistake they made in the past," said Obama from the Herbert M. Ellend Atrium of the S.I. Newhouse Center for Law and Justice, with several hundred guests, faculty, media and security agents looking on.
"Some really good, really successful companies are already doing this," the president said, naming Wal-Mart, Target and Home Depot. He said there are 600,000 inmates released from incarceration each year, while 70 million citizens have some degree of criminal record.
"It is relevant to figure out if someone has a criminal record," but "give folks a chance to get through the door," he added. "We've got to make sure Americans who have paid their debt to society can earn a second chance."