Carney signs bills smoothing ex-cons’ path to employment

NEW CASTLE — Surrounded by justice advocates and labor leaders, Gov. John Carney signed three bills into law Monday that supporters say will break down barriers to employment for ex-convicts.

House Bill 7, House Bill 124 and Senate Bill 43 are intended to improve access to employment by removing roadblocks for ex-convicts who face challenges when they are released from prison.
Collectively, the bills will help job-seekers obtain licenses in several trade fields as plumbers, electricians and massage therapists.

“Formerly incarcerated individuals face barrier upon barrier when they come home, from trouble accessing transportation to housing, and it all comes down to what follows them – their criminal record. With these new laws, we are opening the doors to hope and showing these individuals that they are more than their worst mistake,” said Rep. Melissa Minor-Brown, D-New Castle, prime sponsor of HB 7.

“Removing barriers to gainful employment is critical, so individuals can pursue stability and progress throughout life. I’m hopeful and thankful for the opportunities these bills create.”
The three bills overwhelmingly passed the General Assembly during the session. They were part of a 17-bill package announced in March. Eleven of those bills have been sent to Governor Carney for his signature.
“One of the most critical components of our criminal justice system is getting ex-offenders back into society and making sure they can find good-paying jobs,” said Governor Carney. “This legislation builds on our efforts to make sure those who served out their sentences can positively contribute to their communities.”

About 60 percent of ex-convicts are without a job one year after their release, according to the National Institute of Justice.
HB 124, HB 7 and SB 43 promote employment, ensuring that ex-offenders can pursue a stable path forward, supporters say.

“A good job is a powerful re-entry tool,” said Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings.

“Gainful employment is a cornerstone of success in life after prison, but hundreds of collateral consequences of a criminal record create barriers to necessities like jobs, stable housing, and educational opportunities and make it hard just for returning citizens to get off the ground.

“Part of our criminal justice reform mission is reducing or removing those barriers when it is safe to do so, and that is reflected in the legislature’s work to pass thoughtful pro-jobs and anti-crime legislation like these bills.”
• HB 7 modifies the impact of criminal history on an applicant’s eligibility for licensure by the Board of Massage and Bodywork. It will allow the Delaware Board of Massage and Bodywork to grant waivers for people with certain felony convictions to obtain professional licenses, and prohibits the Board from considering certain convictions that are more than 10 years old.

• HB 124 modifies the impact an applicant’s criminal history would have on their eligibility to obtain a license as a plumber or HVAC technician. It gives the licensing board discretion to waive some of those convictions, making them eligible to pursue their new job.

“Learning a trade can open so many doors, and put an individual on the path toward a successful career.
For ex-offenders who face the odds stacked against them, access to trade opportunities is even more important,” said Rep. Ed Osienski, D-Newark, prime sponsor of HB 124.

“We’ve seen how a previous conviction, even ones way in the past, present major roadblocks, but with this legislation we are working to overcome those obstacles.

Increasing access to employment reduces recidivism and improves an individual’s quality of life. I’m proud to be furthering those efforts with my colleagues, advocates and Governor Carney.”

•SB 43 modifies the impact of criminal history on an applicant’s eligibility for licensure by the Board of Electrical Examiners. Similar to the other two bills, SB 43 give the licensing board discretion to waive some of those convictions when considering an application.

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