By Pat Loeb and Kim Glovas
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – With this weekend’s release of 6,000 federal drug offenders, as part of new sentencing guidelines, there are concerns about their re-entry into society.READ MORE: Police: 21-Year-Old Man Killed In West Philadelphia Shooting
Philadelphia City Council is considering a bill that could make it easier for them to find employment.
The city has already “banned the box” for most employers. That is, the box on a job application that asks about prior criminal convictions.
But a bill introduced by Councilman Curtis Jones would take it further — making it apply to all employers, not just those with ten or more employees, and pushing back when an employer can ask about a record, from after the first interview to after a conditional employment offer.
It would also limit how far back an employer may look for a criminal record to seven years.
The goal, says Jones, is to make former felons more employable.
“They have to work somewhere and if not, they’re going to be more inclined to wind up back in prison.”
Jones says employers could still exclude those with a criminal history, if they felt the applicant posed an unacceptable risk but the bill lays out guidelines for how to make that assessment.
David Rudovsky has a lawsuit pending against the city of Philadelphia centered on prison overcrowding. He says these 6,000 federal drug offenders are not being given a free pass.
“They’re being released because the federal sentencing commission decided that the sentences being given to drug offenders were far too long in the first place.”READ MORE: Thousands Of COVID-19 Vaccines Available At Camden County Mega-Site In Blackwood
And he says many have already served 5, 10, even 25 years.
Agencies are also scrambling to make sure services are available to ease the transition back into society.
Those former inmates will be leaving prison, with very few possessions and very little notice.
Ann Schwartzman, executive director of the Pennsylvania Prison Society, says a coalition has put together the “Prisoner Re-Entry Network” online, to help with the transition.
“Individuals can check that network at www.PhillyReEntry.com, and see a listing of over 700 agencies that can provide some help, some resources, something for re-entry.”
Schwartzman says people will be coming out of prison with very little.
“Anytime a person has been incarcerated, they lose touch with a job, housing, whatever they might have had, they’ve been distanced from their family, they might need simple things like transpasses, they might need money for security deposits on rent,” she says. “They might need basic services like good, shelter.”
Schwartzman also says other services like family mediation or job training and searching are also available.
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