Friday, February 22 2013 7:11 AM EST2013-02-22 12:11:45 GMT
It's a problem that's been around for decades; people with criminal records can't get jobs. "You've got two people applying for the same job, one's got a criminal record, one doesn't, who's going to getMore >>
What you didn't know about your co-workers: A new law makes it easier for convicted felons to find jobs.More >>
WEST CHESTER, OH (FOX19) -
A new bill in the Ohio legislature will make it easier for convicted felons to find jobs.
After prisoners get out of prison and go through rehab, they attain a "Right to Work Certificate".
"I like to call it an insurance policy for employers," said Erin Rosen, an attorney who specialized in getting people's criminal records sealed. "These people have been certified by either the Department of Corrections or the local common pleas court as being fit to be employed."
So, what have they done to be able to return to the workplace from prison?
"They've done certain things such as counseling, rehab and vocational school," adds Rosen. "Something to show that they've turned their life around and for whatever reason they don't qualify to have their record sealed or expunged. This certificate acts as way of saying 'I'm okay to employ'."
If the bill passes, lawmakers would make it impossible for someone to sue if an employer hires an ex-felon and something goes wrong.
"I think most employers are worried about the liability that they would face if they hire a felon and something goes wrong," Rosen adds. "Basically, the employer would have civil immunity for negligent hiring if they hire someone who has one of these certificates."
FOX19 talked to employers that did not know about the proposed law. When the law was explained to them, they were not happy.
However, proponents for the law argue that prisoners can't be locked up forever.
"Statistics show that when they're employed, they have a purpose, and they're less likely to re-offend," countered Rosen. "It's all about trying to reduce the number of offenders who go back to prison, getting them employed, and keeping them from going back to their old ways that got them in trouble in the first place".
This past week the Ohio Department of Corrections announced that the number of prisoners re-offending is at an all time low. Reports said 28.7 percent returned to prison after being released. That's down from 31.2 percent over previous years and well below the national average of about 43 percent.