The Huffington Post has published a new and thoughtful piece by Attorney Steven Brill. The article, "Everybody Deserves a Second Chance, Right?" explores new efforts on the state and federal level to help make those with a criminal record more employable—and the many obstacles those individuals still face.
In the piece, Attorney Brill details recent measures taken all over the country to make it easier for those with prior criminal convictions to be considered for employment. As it stands, most employers ask if applicants have ever been convicted of a crime—or even just arrested—right in the application paperwork. It is commonplace, if there is a "yes" answer for these questions, for that applicant to be instantly excluded from further consideration.
However, there has been hope. Hawaii led the way back in 1998 and passed the very first "fair chance" law, which prohibited private employers from asking about criminal histories until after a job offer has been made to the applicant. The offer could then be withdrawn, but only if the prior criminal activity was deemed relevant to the new position. As Attorney Brill points out, only a few states have enacted similar "fair chance" laws.
More recently, the Obama administration supported a 2013 ruling by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that states employers should not automatically disqualify applicants who have a criminal record. Additionally, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed a similar law for his entire state just weeks ago.
While these efforts are encouraging, Attorney Brill thinks that there is still a long way to go foster equal job opportunities for those with a criminal record. He offers some alarming facts:
- 70 million Americans have a criminal record
- 34% of men unemployed men between 25 and 54 have a criminal record
- In New York, there is no way to expunge a criminal conviction
Attorney Brill takes particular issue this final point and states that New Yorkers who have made an isolated mistake too commonly become haunted by their permanent record for the rest of their lives. Their only option is to apply for a Certificate of Relief of Civil Liberties, but—while this certificate removes any legal restrictions to employment—private employers are under no obligation to consider it while hiring new employees.
For Attorney Brill, it comes down to second chances. He proposes that stronger "fair chance" legislature would not only give countless Americans a fresh chance to get their life back on track, but, in turn, decrease repeat offenses.
Read Attorney Brill's article in the Huffington Post:
Everybody Deserves a Second Chance, Right?
Steven Brill is a founding attorney at Sullivan & Brill, LLP, one of New York's premiere criminal defense firms. For over two decades, Attorney Brill has passionately defended the rights of New Yorkers. Over that time, he has lead litigation against both state and federal prosecutors in more than 50 trials. If you are facing a criminal charge, then put your case in trusted hands. Call Sullivan & Brill, LLP for the advocacy you need today.
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