The bill would have imposed a lifetime ban on persons convicted of homicide, neglect of care-dependent persons, kidnapping, arson, rape, and other sex crimes.
It also would have kept the employment ban in place for those convicted of aggravated assault, stalking, indecent assault, robbery, and endangering children. But the bill would have allowed individuals guilty of those crimes to apply for a "certificate of employability" 10 years after conviction if they could prove they had been rehabilitated.
The legislation would have required those convicted of felony drug crimes, unlawful restraint, statutory sexual assault, burglary, forgery, and prostitution to wait 10 years after their conviction before applying for a nursing-home or similar job.
Persons convicted of certain misdemeanor crimes, including indecent exposure, corruption of minors, or more than one theft, could work in care facilities five years after their convictions by applying to the Department of Aging, which would hold a hearing on their eligibility to work.
Former prison inmates have a hard time finding work, particularly in this economy. They are competing against better-educated applicants with stronger work histories. But it’s to everyone’s advantage to see that convicts who have been rehabilitated become gainfully employed and stay out of the ranks of recidivists.
Unfortunately, even the city’s program granting employers a tax break for hiring former inmates has had limited success getting firms to participate. Reintegration Services for Ex-offenders, which offers counseling and help in getting a high school diploma, reports that only 5 percent of its graduates are recidivists.
Pennsylvania doesn’t have a lot of time left to end its overly broad lifetime jobs ban. The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently issued a clarification on employment practices that noted it can override overly restrictive state practices like those passively allowed by the Pennsylvania legislature.
Given that ruling, the state can expect to lose any forthcoming litigation challenging the ban and be forced to comply not only with the 2003 state Supreme Court ruling, but federal standards as well.
Vance and former Gov. Ed Rendell were close to getting her bill passed before Republican Senate leaders decided to let it die. She should try again. It is unfair and, frankly, embarrassing for Pennsylvania to keep enforcing a ban that its leaders know is unconstitutional.