Fresh Start Legislation Removes Licensing Barriers For Released Prisoners

Monday, February 12, 2018

Senator Kerry Roberts (R-Springfield), Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris (D-Memphis), Rep. Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby), Rep. Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis) and Rep. John DeBerry (D-Memphis) held a press conference Monday to discuss legislation which helps ensure Tennessee’s occupational licensing does not keep offenders who have served their time in jail from obtaining employment and getting a fresh start in life. Senate Bill 2465 would reduce barriers to entering a profession by only allowing state licensing boards to deny licenses for past crimes that are directly related to the job sought excluding certain felonies. It would give those who committed an unrelated crime to the profession they wish to join a “fresh start.” 

"When the prison doors open and it is time for those who have served their time to be returned to our communities, one of the most critical factors to keep them from reoffending is an opportunity to make a living,” said Senator Roberts.  “This bill helps remove barriers that exist in licensing so that they have access to employment as long as the offense does not directly relate to the occupation or profession.” 

"Last year there were over 13,000 felons released out of our jails and prisons in Tennessee with over 2,200 released from Shelby County," said Senator Harris.  "The most important thing we can do to ensure these folks don’t return is to provide them with a path to employment.  Easing restrictions on job licensing will help those who have served their time obtain employment, and stay on the path of being a productive citizen." 

"Unfortunately, we didn’t learn from Nathaniel Hawthorne when he wrote the Scarlet Letter, added Rep. Faison.  “Giving people a criminal record for victimless crimes has done way more to harm society than to help.   This bill is a good start at undoing the huge mistakes we have made.”

Tennessee requires a license for 110 different jobs, many impacting blue collar jobs.  Almost every state licensing board can deny a license to do a job based off a past criminal record, including low-level misdemeanor crimes. 

Senate Bill 2465 provides that if a licensing board denies someone a license for a past crime, the board must consider the nature and seriousness of the crime, the passage of time since the crime was committed, and the relationship between the crime and the license sought, among other factors.  It also allows applicants for licenses to petition a state licensing board upfront to determine whether a past crime will disqualify them from obtaining a license. This will help keep them from spending hundreds or thousands of hours obtaining educational requirements for a license in which they will ultimately be denied. 

“There are over 1,000 barriers that would keep an individual from returning to productive citizenship after coming out of incarceration,” said Rep. Parkinson.  “This idea and this strategy will remove a huge barrier for some of those citizens.” 

Rep. DeBerry added, “If a man or woman comes out of jail and knows they made a mistake and are willing to accept the responsibility for their actions and their behaviors.  If they do everything we ask them to do so that they are accepted and start their life as a productive, taxpaying citizen, then why in the world we get in the way of that.  That is not smart for us as a society.”  

According to the Council of State Governments, nearly 10 million adults return to the community from jails and federal and state prisons each year in the United States, facing challenges related to employment.  CSG reported that estimates reflect occupational restrictions can result in 2.85 million fewer people employed nationwide and raise consumer expenses by more than $200 billion. 

 



Woman Who Became Hospitalized After Drinking Well Water At Local Restaurant Files Class Action Suit

A woman who said she became hospitalized after drinking well water from a local restaurant has filed suit. Tina Rogers is suing the River Drifter Restaurant on Suck Creek Road and its owners, Charles and Renee Eich, as well as property owner Robert L. Newman. The Circuit Court complaint seeks to be declared a class action lawsuit and include others who became ill from drinking ... (click for more)

Boyd Says Commissioners Want Answers From Coppinger On Magistrate Payouts

County Commissioner Tim Boyd has written County Mayor Jim Coppinger saying he wants answers to questions raised about certain payouts to county magistrates. He said other commissioners who were at a Security and Corrections Committee meeting joined him in wanting the answers. Randy Russell, who was chief magistrate for eight years but was not retained, said other magistrates ... (click for more)

Jeff Styles, I Believe You - And Response (3)

I am glad that Jeff Styles presented the details of the event on his website.  Just because the government alleges a crime does not mean guilty. A criminal charge is an allegation by government. Sure, that allegation can be very serious, but the charge is still an unproven allegation until a court of law and Lady Justice has her review of the proof.  A person gets ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: ‘The Cake Is Baked’

If all goes well, and as expected, Hamilton County Chancellor Jeff Atherton will tell a group representing the Democratic Party not to ever again clutter his office or his courtroom with such a childish amount of political poppycock as will be brought on display tomorrow. The Democrats want to block Robin Smith, a longtime Republican stalwart, from becoming our next State Representative ... (click for more)

Volleyball Roundup: Red Bank Falls To Notre Dame, 3-0

Notre Dame beat Red Bank, 3-0, Wednesday in high school volleyball action with set scores of 25-17, 25-18 and 25-16. The Lady Lions (1-2) opened the season with a win against Grundy County and followed with a loss to Ooltewah before dropping Wednesday’s match to the Lady Irish. On Tuesday, Cleveland defeated rival Bradley Central 3-0 to open the Lady Raiders’ 2018 season. ... (click for more)

CCS, Red Bank, Ooltewah Volleyball Winners Tuesday

Chattanooga Christian, Red Bank and Ooltewah all won volleyball matches Tuesday with CCS improving to 2-0 with the 3-1 district win over Grace. Soddy Daisy defeated Hixson by a 3-1 final while Lookout Valley split a pair of matches, the Lady Yellow Jackets losing to Gordon Lee before defeating Ringgold. Soddy Daisy prevailed by scores of 25-10, 19-25, 25-8 and 25-21.  ... (click for more)