Monday, January 11, 2016

Employment bans for criminals - unconstitutional?

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court ruled the state's lifetime ban on employment of felons in certain occupations, specifically in this case being a caregiver for the elderly, is unconstitutional.

The lawsuit was brought by five men convicted of crimes including drug possession, theft, writing bad checks and disorderly conduct. All of the crimes occurred between 15 and 34 years ago. None of them had re-offended since.

In an interview, one of the Plaintiffs said he was convicted of riding in a stolen car 32 years ago. He's had a clean record since that time, but has been unable to hold a job as a caregiver because of his record.

The law "makes no provision for consideration of any other factor, such as the nature of the crime, the facts surrounding the conviction, the time elapsed since the conviction, evidence of the individual’s rehabilitation, and the nature and requirements of the job," Judge Mary Hannah Leavitt wrote for the court.

I understand the desire to screen potential caregivers for the elderly and disabled. But I agree with the court here. A lifetime ban, without regard for any other factors, does not seem right. If people are rehabilitated and/or have not re-offended for that many years, they should be able to at least apply for employment. If there are other reasons they shouldn't be hired, then so be it. But a conviction that old shouldn't be the sole deciding factor.

Kudos to this court for believing in the possibility of rehabilitation.

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