DC Bill Aims to Get Ex-Cons Back to Work
October 11, 2012
The District of Columbia Council is considering a bill that would help ex-offenders re-enter the work force while also granting some protections to the employers who hire them. On September 25, Chairman Phil Mendelson of the DC Committee on the Judiciary held a hearing on Bill 19-889, the Innocence Protection and Re-entry Facilitation Amendment Acts of 2012.The bill would create limited liability for employers who hire or retain ex-cons. It also amends Title 16 of the D.C. Official Code to include interpersonal violence as conviction eligible for record sealing; makes procedural changes associated with the sealing of a criminal record; permits movants to obtain certifications from the court that their records have been properly sealed under Title 16; and creates a certificate of good standing, issued by the Department of Corrections, for qualifying returning citizens.
I like that Section 2 of the bill prevents the introduction of evidence of a criminal past in a negligent hiring lawsuit where an employer has relied upon a certificate of rehabilitation, but the bill stops short of including language that provides actual immunity for employers who rely on the certification. So in other words, the employers will still be subject law suits, and without actual immunity employers will probably not be able or willing to rely on the certificate. The cost to defend lawsuits and the potential increase in insurance costs will likely deter employers from participating in the program, so in the end, what’s the point?
I don’t like the fact that offenders can get a certificate of good standing immediately upon release from incarceration rather than requiring a minimum time to for good conduct that runs from the completion of an individual’s sentence or release from confinement. Allowing a convicted criminal to earn time for “good standing” while still incarcerated rather than demonstrating it after re-entry seems unwise, at best.
Despite a few sections that would benefit from revision and further debate and discussion, it is refreshing to see a proposal that grants protections to employers, which is a vast improvement over some of the proposed legislation we have seen in Seattle and elsewhere.
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