One major issue for former offenders who have served their time and are trying to reintegrate into society is finding a job. There is probably nothing more important for rebuilding their lives than being able to find work, contribute, and earn a living. Without that stepping stone, they are more likely to commit a crime again – which adds avoidable costs to our criminal justice system.
The last thing government should do is get between ex-prisoners and a job. Yet, that is exactly what is happening through occupational licensing regimes that are complicated and costly.
This is a problem in many states, including New Jersey. Now, a bill sponsored by Assemblywoman Lopez, and Senators Singleton and Gill (A3872/S1589) would do something about this issue in the Garden State.
Currently, New Jersey has a broad morality requirement that means anyone with a prior conviction can be denied an occupational license even if the crime was not related, happened a long time ago, the person has not committed a crime since, and they can show they are on the straight-and-narrow.
An ex-offender applying for a license can put in time, effort, and money, and be denied for a past unrelated offense with no chance to fix the situation.
To address these issues, A3872 would require that occupational licensing boards consider whether an offense was directly related to the profession an applicant is seeking, and would impact their ability to do the job. Boards would also have to give notice to applicants if their past conviction was going to be a problem. And sex crimes would still be considered relevant for disqualification from any license.
This would go a long way toward making sure people who’ve committed non-violent crimes, been punished, and applied themselves toward training and a career, are not needlessly barred from working.
People who were denied would be given clear reason, and could take steps to further rehabilitate, and reapply at a later date.
This kind of common sense reform earns broad bi-partisan support for good reason. The vast majority of prisoners will be released one day. The best way to make our criminal justice system more effective and efficient is to ensure they are ready to become productive members of society. That cannot happen without meaningful work.
A3872 would create jobs and reduce crime. It deserves consideration and support in the legislature.