Reena Szczepanski at 505-699-0798 or Julie Roberts at 505-310-4592
Santa Fe — The state Senate voted 35 to 4 yesterday in favor of a bill to remove barriers to employment for people with criminal convictions. The bill then passed House Judiciary Committee this morning by a vote of 7 to 1 and heads to the House Floor. SB 254, the Consideration of Crime Convictions for Jobs bill, sponsored by Sen. Clinton Harden (R-Clovis) will remove the question on public job applications asking if a person has ever been convicted of a felony and delay the inquiry into criminal history until the interview stage of the hiring process.
“A way to keep a person out of prison after their release is to get them a job,” said Sen. Harden during debate on the bill. Harden, the sponsor of the legislation, is the former Secretary of Labor under former Gov. Gary Johnson and works as a business administrator in Clovis, NM.
The legislation does not prevent employers from asking about conviction status during the interview process and does not restrict employers from conducting background checks on applicants.
“This bill will help people with convictions get their foot in the door during the hiring process,” said Reena Szczepanski, director of Drug Policy Alliance New Mexico. “An applicant may be fully qualified for a position, but when the hiring manager sees they have a conviction, that application may go directly into the garbage.”
Other organizations supporting the bill include the NM Conference of Churches, the Lutheran Advocacy Ministry of New Mexico, Women’s Justice Project, and the New Mexico Public Health Association.
National research and studies show that employment can reduce the chance of recidivism and is a key factor in ensuring successful reentry of people leaving jail or prison.
The bill now heads to the House Floor.