Bill to Remove Barriers to Employment Passes Senate Judiciary Committee 7 to 1

Press Release March 4, 2009
Media Contact

Reena Szczepanski at (505) 699-0798

(Santa Fe) — The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 7 to 1 in favor of a bill to remove barriers to employment for people with criminal convictions. SB 459, the Consideration of Criminal History in Hiring bill, sponsored by Senator 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.

Senator Harden, the sponsor of the legislation, is the former Secretary of Labor under Governor Gary Johnson and works as a business administrator in Clovis, NM.

“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.”

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.

The newly created Office of Reentry and Prison Reform within the New Mexico Corrections Department (NMCD) supports the legislation to help people with felony convictions secure and find employment. 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 previously passed the Senate Public Affairs Committee unanimously. The bill now heads to the Senate floor for a full vote.

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