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Should convictions for non-violent crimes be kept from employers?

The unfortunate reality for many of those who have been arrested, charged and convicted is that once they've finish serving their sentence, they may find themselves with relatively few options as far as employment is concerned. Indeed, this can even be the case for those who showed a serious lapse in judgment as a young person and paid their debt to society years prior.

Of course, the even more unfortunate reality is that when people find themselves in these situations, they may eventually feel as if they have little choice but to revert to their prior ways thereby continuing the cycle of incarceration.

This very serious problem has not gone unnoticed by state lawmakers. Indeed, several have unsuccessfully attempted to pass a bill over the last three years that would have provided those convicted of certain non-violent crimes with a much-needed layer of protection from their criminal past while seeking employment.

This year might prove to be year that real change is implemented, however, with the introduction of the Maryland Second Chances Act of 2015.

Sponsored by Sen. Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery) and Del. Curt Anderson (D-Baltimore), the legislation who enable those with a prior conviction for one of 13 non-violent offenses -- disorderly conduct, simple possession, etc. -- to petition the state to shield their criminal record from prospective employers after a three- or five-year waiting period (dependent upon the crime) has passed.

Once the petition is filed, both victims of the crime and the state's attorney would be notified, and given 30 days to object. Furthermore, the petitioner would only be allowed to invoke the protection once, meaning that future offenses would not be included in the shielding, and if the petitioner reoffended within the applicable three- or five-year waiting period, this offense would similarly not be covered.    

While the bill's chances of ending the three-year losing streak remain uncertain, it's worth noting that this year's iteration has gained more supporters, including Del. Joseph F. Vallario (D-Prince George's), chair of the House of Delegates Judiciary Committee.

What are your thoughts on the Maryland Second Chances Act of 2015? Do you support its goals or do you think it's unnecessary?

Source: Southern Maryland Newspapers, "Bill would shield certain crimes from employers during hiring," Jeremy Bauer-Wolf , March 11, 2015 

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