Stephanie WhittExecutive Vice President
Each year, thousands of Tennesseans leave our prisons after serving time for crimes they’ve committed. We can either eliminate barriers that keep them from becoming productive, taxpaying citizens, or we can leave those barriers up and risk them turning back to a life of crime. One such barrier is government licensing. Tennessee requires a license for 110 different jobs, many of which impact low-income Tennesseans. Even worse, almost every state licensing board can deny a license to do a job based off a past criminal record, including low-level misdemeanor crimes.
The Fresh Start Act would reduce barriers to entering a profession by only allowing state licensing boards to deny licenses for past crimes that are directly related to the job sought excluding certain felonies. It would give those who committed an unrelated crime to the profession they wish to join a “fresh start.”
What the Bill Does
This bill strikes the appropriate balance between protecting consumers’ safety and preserving the right to earn a living for those who made past mistakes. We can protect public safety and people’s ability to work and be productive citizens at the same time. Nothing in this bill prevents licensing boards for disqualifying people with criminal records that pose a direct threat to public safety from working in certain occupations. It only requires those boards to ensure that there is a direct relationship between the license sought and the past crime before denying that license. This important reform will reduce government dependency and crime by giving ex-offenders a fresh start to experience the dignity of work and become productive members of society.
“Advancing Sensible Justice Reforms in Tennessee”
Beacon Center of Tennessee