Labor and Public Employees Committee
JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT
AN ACT CONCERNING OCCUPATIONAL LICENSING AND PERSONS WITH CRIMINAL HISTORIES.
SPONSORS OF BILL:
Labor and Public Employees Committee
REASONS FOR BILL:
Individuals with criminal histories are experiencing difficulties obtaining employment.
RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:
Cheryl Sharp, Deputy Director, Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities
Eliminating barriers to equal employment opportunity is one of the Commission's core issues. Where employment requires licensing, those licenses should not be unreasonably withheld or delayed because of an individual's criminal history that is not relevant to the license being sought. Because of the longstanding issues with our criminal justice system, people of color are statistically more likely than Caucasian people to have criminal records and therefore have even more difficulty finding employment and obtaining the required licenses because of those records. Our state has a strong interest in rehabilitating former inmates. For these, reasons, CHRO supports this bill.
Alok Bhatt, Policy Analyst – Commission on Equity & Opportunity
Data clearly indicates that Connecticut incarcerates Black and Brown people at rates far higher than non-Hispanic White people. A 2016 report from the Sentencing Project states that while Connecticut imprisons 248 per 100,000 non-Hispanic White people, it incarcerates 1,362 per 100,000 Black people and 583 per 100,000 Latino people. It follows that people of color disproportionately face the barriers to housing, employment, and other services that press upon formerly incarcerated individuals. By denying licenses based on criminal history, without further investigation into any benefits or limitations into these practices, effectively prevents formerly incarcerated individuals' successful return to society.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:
Joe Horvath, Assistant Policy Director, Yankee Institute for Public Policy
Most relevant to the purpose of this bill is research shows a link between occupational burdens and recidivism. Between 1997 and 2007 state with the heaviest occupational licensing burdens saw an average increase in the three-year, new-crime recidivism rate of over 90%. Conversely, the states that had the lowest burdens and no such character provisions saw an average decline in that recidivism rate of nearly 2.5%.
Lindsay Farrell, State Director, Connecticut Working Families
This legislation will reduce crime, save or criminal justice system money, grow our tax base, and lower unemployment in our state. There two major factors that support the success of formerly incarcerated folks after their release; housing and employment. The recidivism rate for people who find employment after their release from incarceration is 19%. Compare this with people who cannot find gainful employment.
Lori Pelletier, President, Connecticut AFL-CIO
We support the intent of the bill, which requires a review occupational licensing for persons with criminal histories. Together, stakeholders are sure to find ways that allow former inmates to become licensed professionals in the craft for which they trained. Second Chance Society initiatives have given former inmates a chance at a law-abiding life, but there is still work to be done to make sure those who build skills through prison job training programs can put those talents to work when they are release. Recidivism rates can most be attributed to family connections, community ties, and a good paying job.
David McGuire, Executive Director, American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut (ACLU-CT)
The ACLU of Connecticut stands for justice and equality for all. We therefore, strongly support the proposed bill, which would ensure that people who have made mistakes are not unjustly sentenced to a life of exclusion and poverty. Today, nearly one in three jobs in the United States requires an occupational license. Meanwhile, an estimated 1.3 million people in Connecticut are living with criminal convictions. Too often occupational licensure requirements create blanket or backdoor prohibitions on providing licenses to people who have made mistakes. Broadly worded “good moral” clauses in licensure criteria can be abused to discriminate against people who have made mistakes. Notoriously unreliable background check data further compounds these areas. In a national study, nearly half of the FBI background checks omitted information regarding the outcome of a case after someone was arrested, leading to the scarlet letters on the records of people who were not convicted of a crime.
NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:
Reported by: Virginia Monteiro
Date: March 29, 2017