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  • Writer's pictureCenter for Local Policy Analysis (CLPA)

Understanding the Employment Fairness Act for Returning Citizens in Prince George's County

At this week's Prince George's County Council session, Council members Franklin, Hawkins, Blegay, Burroughs, Harrison, Oriadha, and Watson introduced CB-019-2024, the Employment Fairness Act for Returning Citizens. This legislation aims to create fairer employment opportunities for individuals with criminal records, emphasizing rehabilitation and integration into society to lessen the challenges in securing employment. It recognizes the value of offering second chances and enabling them to make a positive societal contribution.

Returning citizens, individuals with criminal records, often find themselves attempting to find their way through a labyrinth of challenges when they try to reenter the workforce. The path from incarceration to employment is full of obstacles ranging from stigmatization to systemic barriers, presenting difficult hurdles to overcome. According to a 2018 study by the Bureau of Justice Statistics examining the recidivism patterns of former prisoners during a 9-year follow-up period, approximately 68% of released prisoners are rearrested within three years. Employment has been shown to reduce the likelihood of recidivism significantly. Research from the National Institute of Justice found that former inmates who secure employment after release are up to 50% less likely to return to prison. These studies show employment's critical role in reducing the risk of reoffending and promoting successful reintegration into society.

What the Bill Proposes

The Employment Fairness Act, if enacted, would ban employers in Prince George's County from inquiring into or considering past criminal records of prospective job applicants under certain conditions. Specifically, the bill focuses on convictions or conviction records that occurred:

·    For a nonviolent felony at least five years ago.

·    For a misdemeanor, at least thirty months ago.

The bill specifies that hiring managers should not consider arrests without convictions during the employment process. However, cases resulting in probation before judgment, which are treated as misdemeanors, would be an exception to this rule. Additionally, it prohibits investigations into convictions for possession of marijuana unless they are associated with intent to distribute and only if the sentence has been completed.

Enforcement and Exemptions

To ensure compliance, introduced CB-019-2024 would mandate that the Executive Director of the Office of Human Rights administer and enforce these new provisions. Prince George's County employers found in violation would face fines, starting at $500 for the first offense and increasing to $1000 for later violations. The legislation, however, outlines roles and positions that would be exempt, such as positions within public safety agencies or roles involving significant trust and responsibility, including access to sensitive information or direct care for minors and vulnerable adults.

Implementation and Next Steps

Now that the Employment Fairness Act for Returning Citizens has been presented to the Council, it has been referred to the Government and Fiscal Policy Committee, chaired by Council Member Ingrid S. Watson and Council Member Sydney J. Harrison, serving as vice chair. Currently, no scheduled debate on the Employment Fairness Act for Returning Citizens is on the agenda.

If enacted, the Employment Fairness Act for Returning Citizens would take effect 45 days after becoming law. Please get in touch with the bill sponsors if you have any questions or concerns about this proposed policy.

Text of CB-019-2024, Employment Fairness Act for Returning Citizens



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