Hugh McQuaid photo
Ernie Newton (Hugh McQuaid photo)

Former state Sen. Ernie Newton on Thursday offered the state Sentencing Commission insight into his life after prison and asked them to address hiring discrimination against ex-felons.

Newton was convicted in 2006 on corruption charges and resigned from the state senate before serving four years in a federal prison.

On Thursday he testified at a public hearing on a proposal aimed at easing inmates’ transition back into society. He used five minutes to encourage the commission to support a plan to provide ex-felons a “certificate of rehabilitation” to avoid discrimination.

“Being in an ex-felon is almost discriminatory because everywhere you go the door is closed on you,” Newton said, wearing a bright blue suit.

Newton said he was proud the state has seen fit to pass laws making it illegal to discriminate against gays and lesbians.

“But yet we’ll let people discriminate against felons and that goes unnoticed,” he said.

Newton said he had paid his debt to society and this year he decided to run for his old senate seat representing Bridgeport. He and current Bridgeport Sen. Ed Gomes lost out to Andres Ayala during the Democratic primary. But he said he ran into discrimination when he applied for public campaign funds.

“They didn’t want to give it to me. That shouldn’t have been. They should have looked at the law and said ‘He met the requirements. He shouldn’t be discriminated against.’ Our system, as it stands today, is a system that’s been broken for a long time,” Newton said.

Newton was sentenced for accepting a $5,000 bribe, evading taxes, and pilfering campaign contributions to pay for car repairs, personal cellphone calls, and other expenses.

He said that people don’t come out of prison looking to commit more crimes, they come out wanting to be a productive member of society, he said.

“And what happens? We force them to do the wrong thing because when a man or a woman can’t find a place to live, can’t find a job, they’re going to revert to what they know,” Newton said before being interrupted for going over his allotted time.

In a quick summation, Newton said ex-felons need to be added to the classes of people against whom it’s illegal to discriminate.