By Cherri Gregg

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Governor Tom Wolf was in South Philadelphia Friday to announce a “fair chance” hiring policy designed help Pennsylvanians with criminal pasts, and he says- it’s just step one.

“I think it’s the right thing to do,” said Governor Tom Wolf, who signed an executive order Friday that would “ban the box,” or, remove the question about criminal convictions on state employment applications.

“It doesn’t mean you don’t take into account someone’s background,” he explained, “it simply says don’t prejudice the situation, talk to the person before you do any background checks.”

The measure goes into effect July 1 and would impact hiring in nearly 70,000 state jobs within Pennsylvania’s executive branch.

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“They can apply for jobs with the commonwealth and not be prejudged,” says Jordan Harris, a state representative, who’s district is in South Philadelphia.

The press conference took place at Surge Recovery, an organization based on Point Breeze Avenue that provides housing and reentry services for those in recovery.

Harris is working on clean slate legislation that would automatically seal non-violent offenses after 10 years.

The effort has picked up dozens of sponsors in both the Pennsylvania House and Senate thanks to broad coalitions and help from groups like Community Legal Services of Philadelphia and the US Justice Action Network.

Harris says momentum is building and he believes Wolf’s order is a step in the right direction.

“If we’re going to be the land of second chances, our laws and our policies must reflect that,” he says.

“This is going to be a major help,” says Kahreed Williams, who joined Surge four months ago. He says it’s discouraging when his applications are not considered because of his criminal past.

“I am just glad to have another opportunity to show who I really am,” says Williams.

Wolf and Harris say they wrote to Pennsylvania’s Civil Services division, asking that they follow suit by also “banning the box.”

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