The Fresh Start Act, Senate Bill 2871, will make it easier for ex-offenders to receive occupational licenses and earn a living.
"Employment is a vital part of reintegrating ex-offenders into their families and communities. Work is the key to staying out of prison and off of welfare. Work is an essential part of the 'success sequence' that is the pathway to prosperity in America. Studies show work reduces recidivism," the letter writes.
Under the proposed legislation, licensing authorities would no longer be able to use vague terms like “moral turpitude” or “good character” to deny a license.
Rather, they must use a “clear and convincing standard of proof” in determining whether a criminal conviction is cause to be denied a license. This includes nature and seriousness of the crime, passage of time since the conviction, relationship of the crime to the responsibilities of the occupation, and evidence of rehabilitation on the part of the individual.
An individual may request a determination from the licensing authority on whether their criminal record will be disqualifying. If an individual is denied, the board must state the grounds and reasons for the denial. The individual would then have the right to a hearing to challenge the decision, with the burden of proof on the licensing authority.
"This bill provides a unique opportunity to bring a message of hope to the thousands of Mississippians released from prison each year. Their hope is that it’s not too latefor them. Their hope is that they, too, can share in the American dream. Thanks to the leadership of Lt. Governor Tate Reeves, Speaker Philip Gunn, Senator John Polk and Rep. Mark Baker, this legislation would create a 'Fresh Start' for these ex- offenders."
The letter was signed by Mississippi Center for Public Policy, Americans for Tax Reform, American Conservative Union, Americans for Prosperity- Mississippi, Right on Crime, Empower Mississippi, and Foundation for Government Accountability.
Read the full letter here.