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Testimony in Support of Bill S-1589: A Fresh Start

Jan 17, 2019 by AFP

Dear Chairwoman Pou and Members of the Senate Commerce Committee:

On behalf of Americans for Prosperity – NJ, our tens of thousands of activists across the state and our 3.2 million activists across the nation, I respectfully urge you to please vote “Yes” on S-1589, which is up in your committee tomorrow.

This bill, supported by a broad coalition ranging the political spectrum, would remove unjust barriers to opportunity for New Jerseyans with past convictions by requiring our professional and occupational boards to more fairly decide whether to revoke someone’s license based on criminal history. Previously shared with you, “Turning Shackles into Bootstraps: Why Occupational Licensing Reform Is the Missing Piece of Criminal Justice Reform” is an excellent study for reference.

Recently, a woman reached out to me who previously served prison time for a drug conviction. She was released and entered cosmetology school, to restart her life and find meaningful employment. She went through all of cosmetology school—an expensive venture—and she found out after finishing that she is not allowed to sit for the licensing exam because of her prior drug conviction. Unable to navigate the state’s bureaucracy, she reached out for help to appeal and I referred her to Senator Singleton’s and Assemblywoman McKnight’s office. This is happening across the state’s 200+ licensing bureaucracies.

S-1589 would help ensure that occupational boards weighing criminal history-related license revocations consider factors like the nature and severity of the offense and any evidence of rehabilitation.  Crucially, these factors include the past offense’s relationship to the occupation in question and the extent to which the crime impacts someone’s ability to perform the job’s duties and responsibilities.

This is a common-sense fix. Losing a license over one’s criminal history makes sense if the crime is directly related to the job in question or the person’s ability to perform it—being barred from a profession simply because of a past mistake, even decades ago, doesn’tThe dignity of work is important to reduce recidivism and saving taxpayer dollars, as it costs more than $60,000 a year to incarcerate someone in New Jersey.

This bill removes roadblocks to rehabilitation and can help more people to continue to better themselves, their community, and New Jersey’s future. Please vote “Yes” on S-1589 in committee to improve lives, strengthen communities, and increase public safety.

Thank you in advance for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Erica L. Jedynak