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Letter in Support of A-3872
For Discussion on Monday, December 3rd
Assembly Regulated Professions Committee
Dear Chairman Giblin, Vice Chair Jimenez, and Members of the Assembly Regulated Professions Committee:
On behalf of Americans for Prosperity’s tens of thousands of activists in New Jersey, I respectfully urge you to please support bill A-3872, which is up for discussion in the Assembly Regulated Professions Committee on Monday. This legislation would help reduce unjust barriers to opportunity for people with past convictions by requiring New Jersey professional and occupational boards to consider a variety of factors, to more fairly decide whether to revoke someone’s employment license based on criminal history.
Americans for Prosperity’s vision for New Jersey and the country is to transform society by breaking the internal and external barriers that prevent people from realizing their potential, enabling all people to improve their lives and find fulfillment by helping others do the same. For many returning citizens from prison, the biggest barrier to opportunity is the ability to get a professional license and a job. Without that, many return to the past behavior, which got them into trouble in the first place. The dignity of work is incredibly powerful.
For example, we recently heard from a woman (I will leave her name anonymous, as Senator Singleton’s and Assemblywoman McKnight’s district offices are actively assisting her) who was convicted of a crime. She served her time and wanted to go to cosmetology school and braid hair. She went through all the schooling – which was quite expensive – and at the very end, she was not allowed to sit for the final licensing exam. Even though her conviction has nothing to do with cosmetology or braiding hair, the state views her conviction in contrast of the “good moral character” requirement. The appeals process has been daunting.
This bill would help ensure that occupational boards weighing license revocations because of criminal history consider factors such as the nature and severity of the offense and any evidence of rehabilitation. Crucially, boards must consider the past offense’s relationship to the occupation the board regulates and the extent to which the offense impacts someone’s fitness to perform the profession’s duties and responsibilities.
These are common-sense fixes. Keeping a former criminal out of a profession makes sense if the offense directly relates to the job; but barring someone from a line of work simply because of a past mistake, even one made decades ago, makes none. Furthermore, criminal record-based license revocation disproportionately harms New Jersey’s most disadvantaged groups, the very people who benefit from access to these opportunities.
Stephen Slivinski, a Senior Research Fellow at the Center for the Study of Economic Liberty (W.P. Carey College of Business, Arizona State University) authored an excellent report titled “Turning Shackles into Bootstraps: Why Occupational Licensing Reform Is the Missing Piece of Criminal Justice Reform”. According to the report:
“The three years following release from prison is the window in which ex-prisoners are most likely to re-offend. Successful entry into the labor force has been shown to greatly increase the chances that a prisoner will not recidivate. The government-imposed barriers to reintegration into the labor force – particularly occupational licensing requirements – can be among the most pernicious barriers faced by ex-prisoners seeking to enter the workforce.”
Our state already has the 16th most burdensome licensing restrictions in the country, according to the Institute for Justice. These unnecessary barriers to opportunity stand in the way of over 80,000 jobs that would otherwise exist. It’s high time for reform. A-3872 removes roadblocks to rehabilitation and this bill will help more people continue to better themselves, their community, and New Jersey’s future.
People deserve second chances. It will make our state and our streets safer. I respectfully urge the committee to break barriers and consider the bill for a full vote as swiftly as possible.
Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.
Erica L. Jedynak
New Jersey State Director
Americans for Prosperity
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