Reena Szczepanski at (505) 699-0798 or Julie Roberts at (505) 310-4592
(Santa Fe) – The state House voted 54-14 yesterday in favor of a bill to remove barriers to employment for people with criminal convictions. The bill had previously passed the Senate 35 to 4 after no debate. The bill now heads to Governor Bill Richardson’s desk for signature. 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. An estimated one in five Americans has a criminal record.
“The New Mexico Legislature affirmed that people deserve a second chance,” said Reena Szczepanski, director of Drug Policy Alliance New Mexico. “People are less likely to return to jail or prison if they have a job. This bill doesn’t just improve the hiring process for public jobs. It has the potential to make our communities safer, and keep families together.”
“This bill will allow individuals who are qualified for a position the chance to get their foot in the door,” said Julie Roberts, policy coordinator with Drug Policy Alliance. “As a person with a criminal conviction, this bill will not only help me, but others around the state who made a mistake years ago and are now rebuilding their lives.”
Other organizations supporting the bill include the Somos Un Pueblo Unido, 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.
New Mexico will join Minnesota as only the second state to remove this barrier to employment for people with convictions.