Helping Individuals with criminal records Reenter through Employment

Factors to Consider Before Advocating for State Certificate Legislation

1.) Does your state have statutory occupational licensing and industry bars that apply to people convicted of crimes?
It is a good idea to have a sense of what are the collateral sanctions in your state. You may contact a university law clinic or a legal advocacy group to determine how many exist in your state. However, very soon the American Bar Association will release a web-based national collateral sanctions database that will be available to the public for state and national searches.

2.) Will the certificate be used to eliminate all civil disabilities or cover only one or two collateral sanctions, for example, employment and voting or occupational licensing, employment, and housing, etc.?
Most advocates usually think broadly when developing these programs, however, by the end of the legislative negotiating process, legislation will likely be modified to create exceptions. Be prepared to determine whether there are specific professions that warrant restrictions, like law enforcement, and those barriers that are unnecessarily limiting opportunities for most people with criminal histories.

3.) What would be the best issuing authority (i.e. only the courts, only the board of parole, or both)?
The issuing authority may be relevant to the intended purpose of the certificate as well as to the individuals that would be deemed eligible to apply. Consider whether there are structures and systems in place with the courts and/or the board of parole to develop such a program. It may be very complicated to develop new application systems. Explore the various application procedures and determine how they may function for the applicant and the implicated issuing authorities.

4.) Should applicants have to wait to apply for a certificate (i.e. five years after incarceration)?
Many states impose waiting periods of differing degrees. It may be best to start with none, as legislative negotiation may lead to waiting periods.

5.) What would employers consider to be the most legitimate issuing authority?
This is a critical question. Advocates should hold an employer focus group or survey local businesses to determine the answer. Essentially, one would want the employer to find the certificate to be from a trusted and acceptable source, or it may not serve as an incentive. For example, an employer may think the board of parole hands out certificates without any scrutiny, or may feel that way about judges.

6.) Should employers be protected against negligent hiring if they hire someone with a certificate?
Negligent hiring liability is a concern for many employers. Advocates have included language in their legislation or developed separate legislation to reduce or eliminate the negligent hiring liability an employer faces in hiring someone with a criminal conviction after reviewing that person’s history and considering the certificate received by him/her.

7.) Should the program be available to individuals with out-of-state and federal convictions?
Several states allow individuals with out-of-state and federal convictions to apply for certificates since they live in and presumably want to work in the state. The application process may differ for these applicants, but other states’ policies could serve as a model.

8.) How should the program be tracked to determine its utility and effectiveness in helping certificate holders get jobs, etc.?
It is important to develop a tracking mechanism with any legislation. Some states require the issuing authorities to annually report their outcomes to the state legislature or for occupational licensing agencies to report the number of licenses granted and denied to applicants with certificates. Government vendors and contractors may be asked to track the same information. This may be the only way to determine the impact of the program.