Lawlor said it's still early on in the process of the Commission considering the proposal but the aim is to eventually have something to present to lawmakers next session. The Commission will consider the proposal at its next meeting Dec. 20.
Thomas Ullmann, New Haven's public defender and also a member of the Sentencing Commission, said he's still undecided on how he feels about specifics in the proposal. However, he does think many convicted felons deserve another chance.
"The few [employers] that do take chances with prisoners are usually pretty well rewarded.," said Ullmann. "They're hard working. They want to help, earn a living. They don't want to be dependent on the state."
Ullmann said the odds of recidivism go up when a person released from prison can't find housing or a job. As a public defender those are the scenarios he sees amongst the defendants that keep coming back into the criminal justice system.
"People that come out (of prison) want to do well," said Ullmann. "They don't want to go back to prison. They want to help their families. The problem is there are all these barriers out there. We need to try to think of creative ways to be more successful at reintegrating people into the community."
In Connecticut, the Board of Pardons and Paroles may issue provisional pardons to help certain convicts get jobs or housing but Erika Tindill noted that such pardons are rarely ever given out.
New York and Illinois have processes currently in place that are similar to the Certificates of Rehabilitation proposal in Connecticut. The certificates remove any bar to a person's employment that is automatically imposed by law because of their conviction.
As is included in the Connecticut proposal, the statutes contain provisions that remove liability against an employer who hires someone convicted of a felony. For instance, if that person, in the course of their job, harms a customer, that victim cannot sue the company for negligence in hiring the ex-convict.
One employment law expert told the Law Tribune that if such a provision removing liability for employers makes its way in the proposal to the Legislature for consideration, the state Trial Lawyers Association would likely oppose it.
According to Daniel A. Schwartz, of Pullman & Comley in Hartford, who has followed this topic for his Employment Law Blog, Connecticut has a law that was passed in 2010 that says state employers cannot conduct background checks until later on in the hiring process when an applicant is deemed qualified. Previously, public employers could screen applicants prior to evaluating their qualifications.