BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- A proposed new law could improve public safety and save tax dollars, all while repealing a chunk of the Alabama state constitution.
Sen. Cam Ward (R- Alabaster) is sponsoring a bill that would remove more than 700 sections of Alabama code that restrict the jobs people can get after prison.
“We have over 783 places in the code of Alabama that places restrictions on people from getting an occupation, getting a job in a profession,” said Ward. “And it goes all across the spectrum. Just because someone committed a crime one time, now they’re no longer able to get a job.”
Right now, restrictions range on jobs from water meter reader to karate instructor.
“The whole idea when someone gets out of prison- we want them to get a job,” Ward said. “We want them to pay taxes. We want them to be productive citizens and not a public safety risk.”
Fredrick Sherill understands how difficult the job search can be after prison. He got out of prison in September, after serving time for a crime he committed as a teenager.
“My crime was armed robbery,” Sherill told us. “I did 15 years, day for day.”
In prison, Sherill says he worked hard to get his GED and learn refrigeration and air conditioning skills.
But, the job search has still been a challenge.
“It’s hard when you being released from prison after doing a lot of time and you’re trying to do the right thing in society and being a law abiding citizen and there’s constant road blocks,” Sherill said.
The Foundry is helping Sherill and others re-enter society. And now, Ward’s bill could also help.
“Some of the sillier things, for example, if you’ve ever been to prison in Alabama for anything, any crime whatsoever, you can’t be a karate instructor,” Ward explained. “You can’t get a license. That’s a stupid law and it’s just government run a muck.”
Ward says many jobs are affected.
“You can’t be an engineer,” he said. “You can’t be a certain pharmacist, line workers. You can’t be a utility worker. You can’t be a water meter inspector. Those are just a few of many many jobs out there that you can’t even get a license for. The government is not going to say you’ve got to hire these people. But they should at least be allowed to get a license and apply for a job, if someone wants to hire them.”
Ward says similar bills have passed in other states and they helped reduce recidivism rates.
Sherill also thinks it could help.
“Judge me based on my work ethic, not necessarily a bad decision I made 15 or 20, sometimes 25-30 years ago,” he said.
Ward acknowledges some restrictions are necessary and must remain. For example, he says a sex offender should not be able to work in a school.
Ward also stressed his bill would allow someone to get a license for a job, but the employers would still have the final say who they want to hire.