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Job applicants who've been convicted of a crime won't have to disclose their criminal record before some job interviews under a new Utah law aiming to help convicts find work after prison.

The legislation only applies to government jobs, but supporters say they hope more private employers adopt the practice.

Rep. Sandra Hollins, a social worker who sponsored the new law, said people who have served time behind bars often find it tough to become a member of the workforce again if they're required on job applications to disclose or list criminal convictions before getting a chance to explain themselves.

"You at least need to get the foot in the door," said Hollins, D-Salt Lake City. "My goal is to have the person get into the interview based on their qualifications."

The new law, which takes effect May 9, says government employers can't exclude someone from getting a job interview if the applicant has been convicted of a crime, and they can't ask about a criminal record before the interview.

Hollins said once that person gets the interview, the employer can ask about the applicant's history and decide whether to hire the person. If there's no interview process for the job, then the employer can't ask about a criminal record until a conditional job offer is made to the applicant.

The rules won't apply to government jobs in law enforcement, criminal or juvenile justice, or any work with children or vulnerable adults. Any government agency that mainly handles finances or a fiduciary role would also be exempt, as would the State Tax Commission and state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

Hollins' legislation, which passed with bipartisan support, puts Utah in league with 20 other states with both conservative and liberal politics that have adopted similar rules, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The measures come as lawmakers around the country are discussing criminal justice reform and how to improve the chances that those who serve time behind bars rejoin society instead of re-offending.

Groups such as the National Employment Law Project and American Civil Liberties Union have advocated for the "Ban the Box" measures, a reference to a box on job applications that potential workers are asked to check if they've been convicted of a crime.

Hollins said those requirements to disclose a record often discourage many convicts from even applying.

Ben Aldana, a 36-year-old Orem resident, said he knew that when he finished a six-year federal prison term in 2010, "I wasn't going to get put into a job where they were going to trust me with anything."

Aldana had an extensive criminal record, but a friend who owned a construction business agreed to give him a job after meeting with him and discussing how he'd changed. He says that opportunity to explain himself, instead of being judged by his criminal record, helped him get where he is today — a second-year law student at Brigham Young University.

"People getting out of jail and prison, people with felony convictions... all of us know we have something to prove," he said. "You'll never know unless you give them the opportunity."