REPORT ON BILLS FAVORABLY REPORTED BY COMMITTEE
TITLE OF BILL:
AN ACT CONCERNING CERTIFICATES OF EMPLOYABILITY AND REHABILITATION.
SPONSORS OF BILL:
Rep. Lawlor, 99th District
REASONS FOR BILL:
To provide another option for Board of Pardon and Paroles, in addition to a full pardon, help facilitate employment of ex-offenders and lower rates of recidivism.
Removes Superior Court from those who may issue certificates of employability.
RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:
Chairman Greg Everett, Board of Pardons and Parole-It's total impingement but the Board of Pardons and Parole certainly would be well deserved to issue ex-offenders some sort of provisional pardon allowing them to obtain employment opportunities that are associated with criminal convictions that they may be barred from.
As currently constructed, this bill may need to be tweaked. Many of the jurisdictions have some type of eligibility criteria or a window and this would just be anybody coming out of prison could get a certificate on parole.
My other concern is that this doesn't apply to the private sector. If we don't have the private sector's buy in for employment opportunities for ex-offenders, it becomes somewhat guarded as to what impact, what use it would be of. My concern is, “What does one of these men, for example, a plumber or a barber mean?” We really need to get the private sector to buy into this in order for this to be really effective.
The inmate application is a one-sheet thing and it's pretty simple. There are institutional parole officers that are assigned to all the facilities and the correctional counselors have been helping offenders with that for years. It should be readily familiar with more offenders who are incarcerated. Like parole, a pardon is an extraordinary remedy, and the courts have said that nobody has a right to a pardon, and there is no appeal, although people write in. We give inmates a reason for why they are denied as well, same thing with ex-offenders or current offenders.
Deborah J. Fuller, External Affairs Division, Judicial Branch-We do not believe that it is appropriate for judges to made decisions regarding an offender's suitability for employment of licensure.
This bill would create a new process whereby any individual who has been convicted of a crime could make application to the Superior Court, either at the time of sentencing or at any time thereafter, for a certificate of eligibility that would relieve them of the barriers to employment or license/permit/certificate/registration forfeiture that resulted from their conviction. It would include individuals who were convicted in other states, but who currently reside in Connecticut.
This bill would also impose a substantial increased workload on the Branch, both for our Court Operations Division, which would be handling the applications, and for our Court Support Services Division, which would conduct the investigation of the applicants. This would require additional resources. (Addressed in substitute language)
NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:
Glenn E. Martin, Co-Director, National H.I.R.E. Network of the Legal Action Center-This bill would serve to help qualified and work-ready individuals with criminal records by authorizing the creation of a certificate program, similar to those adopted by New York and California, which would operate to remove statutory bars to jobs or licenses and provide individuals with criminal records evidence or employability to share with employers. It is important to point out what while certificates remove blanket bars and serve as evidence of employability, they do not deny employers or licensing agencies' discretion to make decisions weighing factors, such as the need to protect public safety.
This bill would benefit the State of Connecticut. When focusing on recidivism statistics around the country, we see that the majority of people rearrested are not employed at the time of rearrest. Whether viewed from a public safety standpoint, or a purely fiscal perspective, any mechanism that increases employment opportunities for people with criminal records, while not compromising public safety and saving tax payer's dollars, is worth serious consideration. The Legal Action Center and its National HIRE Network commend this committee for considering the creation of this mechanism and urges the Connecticut State Legislature to pass this important measure.
Attorney Nadine Nevins, Regional Director, Connecticut Legal Services-Other ex-offenders come out of prison to return to neighborhoods that do not have a lot to offer in terms of jobs or networking opportunities. Without jobs they cannot afford housing, are not eligible for public housing, or certain public benefits. They have paid their debt and served their time. They are motivated to move on.
The state has to take the first step to remove the barriers that prevent ex-offenders from holding certain jobs or licenses when their conviction is unrelated to the job or license they are seeking and they have been rehabilitated. Ex-offenders desperately want to support themselves and their families but they are trapped by statutes and licensing laws that limit their opportunities.
This bill is a win win bill. It balances the needs of people with criminal records to be able to support themselves and their families with the concern of public safety. Certificates of Employability and Rehabilitation will only be issued when the Court or Board of Pardons and Paroles is satisfied that doing so is consistent with the public safety and the protection of property.
Greater Hartford Legal Aid, Inc.-This bill establishes important support for ex-offenders who are trying to reintegrate into society but whose criminal record impedes their ability to get an occupational license or a job.
Under the proposed bill, the Superior Court or the Board of Pardons and Paroles may issue a certificate of employability to a Connecticut resident convicted of a crime if the Court or the Board finds that the certificate may promote the public policy of rehabilitation of ex-offenders through employment and that the certificate is consistent with the public interest in public safety and the protection of property. This embodies a balancing test between the need to reduce criminal recidivism by opening opportunities for employment and the need to protect public safety and property.
Section 9 of this bill gives the Board of Pardons and Paroles an opportunity to affirm the rehabilitation for ex-offenders who the Board does not feel qualify yet for an unconditional pardon. At present, a job or license applicant with a criminal history is burdened with her criminal record unless she is granted an unconditional pardon by the Board. The Board will not even consider a pardon application until at least five years has elapsed since the ex-offender has completed her sentence or probation. This bill authorizes the Board to grant provisional pardons to ex-offenders. This bill establishes a graduated approach to a serious social problem. Its careful balance of public safety and ex-offenders' desire to reintegrate into society deserves your support.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:
Jazmin Molina, Graduate Student, UConn-Neither the certificate of employability nor the provisional pardon is an absolute pardon, nor does either part of the bill ensure the erasure of criminal records. This bill is not intended to streamline the pardon process and provide a “clean slate” for those who are granted a pardon. Any certificate given can still be perceived as a scarlet letter informing prospective employers of an individual's criminal history. These certificates do not apply to public and federal programs and other issues such as housing, financial aide, and building credit.
This bill becomes a hindrance in allowing ex-offenders to successfully transition back into their communities. It will not allow them access to find housing for themselves and their families. It will not assist those that want to attend college with the financial aid that they may need. This bill will not permit people to build credit necessary to buy a home or a car. It may not successfully offer people the opportunity to start over. Instead, ex-offenders will continue to pay for a crime that they have already served time
LaResse Harvey, Create Change-This bill causes further rejection and does not by any means help with shelter, food and clothing. It only hinders a person from obtaining employment. This bill does not reinforce any practical means of reintegration. Instead, these certificates leave me in a situation where I must constantly admit guilt for my mistake, incarceration. This legislation also proposes that I go up to the Board of Parole and have them decide if I can be trusted for employment. Why do that when I can just apply for a pardon? A pardon will allow me to be human. To feed my family, clothe my family, and own my own business, this bill does not offer me any of these things. It just dehumanizes people.