President Obama announced a new directive on Monday which would prevent individuals from having to immediately disclose their criminal history on federal job applications.

In a statement, the White House noted that Obama has “called on Congress to follow a growing number of states, cities, and private companies that have decided to ‘ban the box’ on job applications.”

[pull_quote_center]We are encouraged that Congress is considering bipartisan legislation that would ‘ban the box’ for federal hiring and hiring by federal contractors. In the meantime, the President is directing the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to take action where it can by modifying its rules to delay inquiries into criminal history until later in the hiring process.[/pull_quote_center]

The White House called the move a “fair opportunity to compete for Federal employment” for individuals “from all segments of society, including those with prior criminal histories.”

[RELATED: Congress to Take On Criminal Justice Reform this Year]

During an event in Newark, New Jersey, Obama said that he believes federal agencies should follow the steps of 19 states and major companies such as Koch Industries, Target and Walmart to remove questions about criminal history from job applications.

“It is relevant to find out if somebody has a criminal record,” Obama said. “I’m not suggesting ignore it. I’m suggesting that when it comes to applications, give folks a chance to get through the door.”

[RELATED: Reality Check: U.S. Non-Violent Drug Offenders Incarceration Rate Is Shameful]

Vox noted that the initiative is one that advocated “a concrete step toward not just reversing mass incarceration in the future, but also making sure its past victims don’t slip through the cracks.”

Critics such as The Guardian’s Steven Thrasher called the “ban the box” initiative a “band-aid on a gaping wound that is mass imprisonment” and said that it is “a feel-good half measure which likely will accomplish little.”

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) is sponsoring legislation with Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) that would have a similar effect. He said that he is “really happy to see the president continue to push the envelope” on the issue, but that he thinks implementing “should be done legislatively, so that the stroke of another president’s pen can’t undo it.”

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