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DC Council takes important step in passing reentry legislation

With its enactment on December 18 of the Reentry Facilitation Amendment Act of 2012, the D.C. Council has taken an important step to help District residents with criminal records find jobs and turn their lives around. The legislation was drafted in response to recommendations in the Council for Court Excellence's 2011 report, Unlocking Employment Opportunity for Previously Incarcerated Persons in DC.

The report surveyed 550 District residents who have served time in prison or jail and found that 46 percent were unemployed. Almost half of the approximately 8,000 people who return to the District each year after serving sentences in prison or jail will be back behind bars after just three years, according to the CCE. Research shows that when previously incarcerated persons have stable employment they are far less likely to return to crime and public safety improves.

More than 50 percent of DC employers surveyed by CCE said that factors such as liability protection, certificates of good standing and industry-specific skill training would "significantly increase or influence hiring" of the previously incarcerated.

The legislation passed by the Council will:
• Make further changes to the existing law that permits people to seal certain low-level, non-violent misdemeanor convictions and arrest records that do not result in a conviction, such as reducing the amount of time a person must wait to seal eligible convictions;
• Address employers liability concerns about hiring a person with a criminal record by offering a method that would ban the revelation of the employee's criminal record in a civil negligent hiring lawsuit; and
• Establish a certificate of good standing program, available to persons with a criminal conviction upon completion of their sentence, probation or community supervision.

"CCE is encouraged by the passage of this bill under the leadership of DC Council Chairman Phil Mendelson," said CCE Chairman Jay Brozost. "Employment is a key factor in reducing recidivism. This legislation provides good solutions to help reentering neighbors get jobs and get a second chance."

June Kress, CCE executive director, said, "This is an important issue for every resident of Washington, DC because there are 60,000 people with criminal records in the city. Contrary to stereotypes, many of them are highly motivated to reestablish themselves in the community when they are released from incarceration. They want to find jobs and support themselves and their families. They can become exceptional employees."

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