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. 

 



Latest Hamilton County Jail Booking Report

Here is the latest jail booking report from Hamilton County: ANDERSON, ANTONIO LEBRON  7255 LEE HWY APT #417 CHATTANOOGA, 37421  Age at Arrest: 37 years old Arresting Agency: Hamilton County AGGRAVATED ASSAULT DOMESTIC --- APOLINAR, KEVIN JOSE  6850 HICKORY LANE CHATTANOOGA, 37421  Age at Arrest: 39 years old Arresting Agency: Hamilton County ... (click for more)

Concurrent Grand Jury Calls For Additional Mental Health Facility; Cites Overcrowding, Heat Problems At County Jail

The Concurrent Hamilton County Grand Jury, in a final report, called for an additional mental health facility here.     The panel noted that the Moccasin Bend faility only has 150 beds and serves 52 counties.   The Concurrent Grand Jury also described overcrowded holding cells at the Hamilton County Jail as well as very high temperatures on the ... (click for more)

TIF Proposal Fails Straight Face Test

Mayor Berke has put the City Council in an unenviable position. The Council will be asked to vote Tuesday on whether to use tax increment financing (TIF) to pay for a one-block extension of M.L. King Boulevard to the Riverwalk.  Accountability for Taxpayer Money supports the road extension concept and understands its timing. However, we strongly oppose using TIF future property ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Want To Buy An AK-47?

On Sunday night I got an email from a reader who I enjoy that read, “How about, ‘Don’t sell assault weapons to 18-year-olds.’ The blood is on your hands (and all the other gun and violence idolaters)!” While I beg to disagree with him, this is a nation where – right now, this minute -- there are an estimated ONE TRILLION rounds of ammunition and over 300 million firearms. I can ... (click for more)

Howard Nips Red Bank In McGary's Final Home Game

Two consolation games were played in the District 6-AA basketball tournament Monday night at Howard’s Henry Bowles Gymnasium and one was much more significant than the other. The Brainerd Lady Panthers had a strong fourth quarter to finally pull away from Tyner en route to a 48-34 victory while the Howard Hustlin’ Tigers escaped a hungry Red Bank team by a 71-68 final that was ... (click for more)

Howard Plays Like A "Miss Basketball" As Bradley Rips Lady Canes For 5-3A Title

CLEVELAND, Tenn. – In each of the last eight seasons, Bradley Central coach Jason Reuter hasn’t come close to winning the District 5-3A Coach of the Year award, an award voted on by the league coaches. In those eight years, however, Reuter has directed the Bearettes to a district tournament championship. Every year. Just like clockwork. That’s a tradeoff Reuter ... (click for more)