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Lesniak-Cunningham Bill To Help Ex-Offenders Find Employment Passes Law And Public Safety Committee

A view of the Senate Chambers from the 2010-2011 Senate Reorganization.

Legislation Would Remove Restrictions that Prohibit Ex-Convicts from Working at Businesses with Liquor Licenses

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senators Raymond J. Lesniak and Sandra Bolden Cunningham that would aid certain ex-offenders in gaining employment was approved unanimously today by the Senate Law and Public Safety Committee.

“Releasing prisoners into a society that places unnecessary roadblocks to employment increases the chances they will be back in prison sooner or later,” said Senator Lesniak (D-Union). “It is time we remove the archaic prohibition on any employment by an ex-offender in an establishment holding a liquor license. Reducing the rate of recidivism not only saves the cost of imprisonment, it also makes for safer neighborhoods in our communities.”

The bill (S-3044) would allow ex-offenders – excluding sex offenders – to be employed by alcoholic beverage licensees such as restaurants or bars, in positions not requiring the serving, selling or soliciting the sale, mixing, processing or preparation of alcohol.

Under current law, a person convicted of crimes such as fraud, assault or destruction of property is unable to be employed by any business holding a liquor license, unless the person has obtained a Rehabilitation Employment Permit from the Director of the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control, which currently costs $125 annually. This restricts ex-offenders from being employed at bars and restaurants in such positions as cooks, janitors and dishwashers and under contract as band members, disc jockeys or janitorial personnel, even though they may come in no direct contact with alcohol.

“Due to large gaps in employment histories and lost skills during incarceration, many ex-offenders often find it difficult to find work once they have been released from prison,” said Senator Cunningham (D-Hudson). “Our current laws continue to create barriers for these ex-offenders to find employment by barring them from many entry-level positions that are often a good fit for people reentering the workplace. We must change the law, so that these rehabilitated ex-offenders have the financial support that will allow them to become law-abiding citizens.”

The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.