MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - A new Alabama law aims to remove hundreds of barriers and help people released from prison get jobs.
The law stops an occupational licensing board from automatically denying an application based on a criminal conviction.
“We found out that there would be occupations people would get training for and licensed for in prison and when they got out, there would be archaic barriers on the books that would keep them from doing the things that they were just trained to do,” said Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa.
England said there are around 700 places that do not allow some people released from prison to get a job.
Former Etowah County Circuit Judge David Kimberly gave an example, saying convicted felons cannot have a cosmetology license, even though they are taught cosmetology in prison.
Kimberly supports the new law and said as a judge many times he had to recommit people to prison after they re-offended.
“The genesis of that a lot of times is not their lack of good intention when they first got out but the lack of opportunity,” Kimberly said. “If you stay employed, you have a tendency not to re-offend. You’re supporting your family. You’re paying your child support. You’re paying your taxes."
Under the new law, if a former inmate is denied an occupational license, it allows that person convicted of a felony or misdemeanor to petition the court to review the matter. The court can then provide a certificate to the specific licensure board who would need to review the former inmate’s qualifications and make a detailed decision as to whether he or she should be licensed. The board would have the final say.
“Anything that we can do to remove arbitrary barriers and regulations in order to make that easier is something we should do,” England said.
The law goes into effect Sept. 1, 2019.