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ID Bill Would Give Formerly Incarcerated 'Fair Chance' at Work

Thirty-five states ban employers from asking job-seekers about their criminal records on applications. (thanksforbuying/Adobe Stock)
Thirty-five states ban employers from asking job-seekers about their criminal records on applications. (thanksforbuying/Adobe Stock)
March 12, 2020

BOISE, Idaho -- People with criminal records often struggle to find work after they're released from prison.

But now Idaho lawmakers are considering a bill that could make it easier for them.

The Fair Chance Employment Act would bar employers from excluding people with records, delaying criminal history inquiries until a job interview or offer of employment.

Ruby Mendez-Mota, an advocacy fellow with the ACLU of Idaho, says she's heard stories from formerly incarcerated people who are rejected as soon as their history comes up, including a man who worked as a machinist and was told he had a "great resume" but wouldn't be hired.

"That was a moment for him, he realized, 'What am I going to do?'" she relates. "'You know, because this is something that I've always known from all my years.'

"And he was even considering potentially living in his car at some point if he didn't find employment."

The bill received a public hearing in the House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee on Wednesday.

Arguing against the bill, the Idaho Freedom Foundation says people who have been incarcerated could increase crime in the workplace.

Supporters of the bill note that employment decreases the chances of someone going back to prison.

And Mendez-Mota says 70% of people in Idaho are locked up because of a probation or parole violation.

"The reality is that it costs more to incarcerate an individual than for this individual to generate some earnings throughout the year," she points out.

Thirty-five states have similar laws, including Nevada, Oregon and Utah.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID