OLR Bill Analysis

sHB 5781

AN ACT CONCERNING CERTIFICATES OF EMPLOYABILITY AND REHABILITATION.

SUMMARY:

This bill authorizes the Board of Pardons and Paroles to issue certificates of employability to relieve offenders of certain barriers or forfeitures due to their conviction of crimes named in the certificate. The bill alters the state policy on hiring and licensing offenders and declares that a certificate of employability creates a presumption of rehabilitation and passage of sufficient time for the crime specified in it and requires the agency to consider the certificate in its determination of whether to offer employment or issue an occupational license or other credential.

The bill also authorizes the board to issue provisional pardons that include a certificate of rehabilitation. It prohibits employers from denying employment to a prospective employee or discharging or discriminating against an employee solely on the basis of a prior conviction for which the person received a provisional pardon ( 8). Under current law, these prohibitions apply to prior arrests, criminal charges, or legally erased records of convictions (for delinquencies, families with service needs, youthful offenders, criminal charges that were dismissed or nolled, criminal charges resulting in not guilty verdicts, and pardoned convictions).

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2006

CERTIFICATES OF EMPLOYABILITY

The bill allows the board to issue a certificate of employability if (1) the person was convicted of a crime in Connecticut or another jurisdiction and resides in the state, (2) the relief in the certificate may promote the public policy of rehabilitating ex-offenders through employment, and (3) the relief in the certificate is consistent with the public interest in public safety and protecting property ( 2).

The bill allows the court at sentencing to refer a person convicted of a crime to the board for expedited consideration of an application for a certificate, if the person requests it ( 3).

Barriers and Forfeitures

Under the bill, the certificate of employability can apply to all of the eligible barriers or forfeitures or it can specify particular ones. It can limit the certificate to specific types of employment or licenses for which the offender is otherwise qualified.

A “barrier” is the denial of employment or a license because of a criminal conviction without considering whether the nature of the crime bears a direct relationship to the employment or license. A “forfeiture” is a disqualification or ineligibility for employment or a license by reason of law based on the offender's criminal conviction.

“Employment” is any remunerative work, occupation, vocation, or any form of vocational training but not employment with law enforcement.

A “license” is any license, permit, certificate, or registration required by the state or an agency to pursue, practice, or engage in an occupation, trade, vocation, profession, or business.

The certificate cannot apply to eligibility for or the right to retain public office.

Issuing Certificates

To determine whether to issue a certificate, the board can have its staff investigate the applicant and submit a report. If written, the report is confidential and cannot be disclosed except as required or permitted by statute or on the board's specific authorization. The board can allow the applicant or his attorney to examine the report and give them an opportunity to dispute or comment on any part of it.

Certificates issued while an offender is on probation or parole are temporary certificates and the board can revoke one for violating probation or parole conditions. The board must notify the person and provide an opportunity for a hearing before revoking it. A certificate that is not revoked becomes permanent on completing probation or parole.

At any time, the board can follow the same procedures to issue a new certificate that enlarges the relief granted.

The board creates the forms and sets required information for the certificates, applications for them, and revocations of them.

Collecting Data on Certificates

The bill requires state agencies that issue licenses to collect data on the number of eligible offenders who:

1. present a certificate and are (a) issued a license or (b) denied a license and

2. did not present a certificate and are (a) issued a license or (b) denied a license.

It requires the board to collect data on the number of eligible offenders who apply for a certificate and are either issued or denied one ( 4).

STATE POLICY ON HIRING AND LICENSING OFFENDERS

By law, a person is not disqualified from state employment or from practicing, pursuing, or engaging in an occupation, trade, vocation, profession, or business that requires the state to issue a license, permit, certificate, or registration solely because of a prior criminal conviction.

But current law allows a person to be denied state employment or one of these credentials because of a prior conviction if the person is found unsuitable after considering (1) the nature of the crime and its relationship to the job, (2) information on the person's rehabilitation, and (3) the time elapsed since conviction or release. Under the bill, after considering these factors, the agency must instead determine in order to deny employment or a credential that the (1) nature of the crime has a direct bearing on the person's fitness or ability to perform one or more of the duties and responsibilities necessarily related to the employment or credential, (2) person is insufficiently rehabilitated, or (3) insufficient time has passed. The bill also declares that a certificate of employability creates a presumption of rehabilitation and passage of sufficient time for the crime specified in it and requires the agency to consider the certificate in its determination.

By law, these provisions prevail over agencies' authority to deny credentials based on the lack of good moral character and to suspend or revoke them based on conviction of a crime. These provisions do not apply to law enforcement agencies but an agency can adopt such a policy.

The law also (1) requires a written rejection specifically stating evidence and reasons when a criminal conviction is the basis for rejecting an applicant, with a copy sent the applicant by registered mail and (2) prohibits the state or any agency from using, distributing, or disseminating arrest records that are not followed by a conviction and conviction records that are erased for any job or credential applications ( 5).

Regarding these provisions in the bill and current law on state hiring and licensing, the bill gives a person aggrieved by a violation of them a right to petition the Superior Court for appropriate relief and the court has the power to grant relief deemed just and suitable, including issuing injunctions ( 6).

PROVISIONAL PARDONS

The bill authorizes the board to issue provisional pardons. When granted, the board must (1) issue the person a certificate of rehabilitation and (2) provide written notification to the clerk of the court where the person was conviction. This does not erase the conviction record and the person must still disclose the conviction as may be required. The board chairman, in consultation with the executive director, must adopt regulations for the application process and criteria for granting provisional pardons ( 7).

COMMITTEE ACTION

Judiciary Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

36

Nay

2

(03/24/2006)