Schools can fire or refuse to hire convicted felons, under legislation passed by the state senate Thursday. Democrats argue convicted felons would be prevented from getting jobs after having served their sentences.
Senator Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee) points to the high rate of recidivism in Wisconsin’s criminal justice system, saying this bill would not help reintegrate felons back into the community upon release from prison. “Individuals who are re-entering do not have access to housing and jobs and thus cycle back into previous behavior.”
Taylor talks about restorative justice, suggesting this legislation does nothing to help prevent a felon’s repeat behavior. “How does this help to get those individuals who re-enter back in society and connected to jobs? How does it do it? Where are the jobs?”
Currently, it is not employment discrimination to fire or refuse to hire a criminal if their offense substantially relates to the circumstances of the particular job. Under new legislation, the felon’s crime doesn’t have to be relevant to the circumstances of the job.
Senator Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) says it’s not mandatory; it’s voluntary. “We do not want individuals with felony records to be discriminated against. We are saying we want the employer to have the right to look at the total record and use their best judgment.”
The bill goes to the Assembly.
AUDIO: Jackie Johnson report 1:34