Advocates challenged legislators to expand a bill that would help convicted felons get jobs with the state and businesses licensed by the state at a Capitol press conference Thursday.
Barbara Fair of People Against Injustice in New Haven, said she supports the bill, however, the state’s Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities already bans discriminating against felons. The problem is that it’s often not enforced, she said.
On this point she had harsh words for legislators. “You keep doing the same dumb stuff and we keep going around in circles,” Fair said.
According to Fair, the bill would still allow employers to discriminate against felons for certain positions. “It says that if you are a felon you can’t be in management.”
The bill does not refer specifically to management positions but does give employers the right to deny employment after considering “the nature of the crime and its relationship to the job.”
“I don’t think the bill goes far enough. I would like to see it not discriminate against the type of jobs people can get,” Fair said. She also pointed out that many people serving time in prison are there for nonviolent crimes. “The majority of offenders filling our prisons are there for poverty related crimes.”
Joe Brooks, a former Manchester Police officer, asked why there is recidivism. Because, he said, “people get out of jail and they can’t find a job.”
“All these people are being thrown away,” Brooks said.
LaResse Harvey, policy director for A Better Way Foundation, echoed Brooks’ statement and warned legislators. “Remember that we are a Republic. That means they represent us. And if they aren’t representing us. They need to get fired.”
The bill would require employers to make a conditional offer of employment before doing a criminal background check. The job offer could then be revoked but the specific reasoning must be in writing and mailed to the job applicant.
It is similar to, but not exactly like New Haven’s ordinance approved last year by that city’s Board of Alderman.
It’s unclear what type of opposition this bill will face, but it’s likely the business community will oppose it.