Lawmakers consider bill to put convicted felons back to work - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Lawmakers consider bill to put convicted felons back to work

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(WMC-TV) - The Tennessee Department of Corrections shows at least half the men and women who are released from jail will be arrested again within three years. For many of them, a criminal record prevents them from getting a job.

Lawmakers are considering a bill that could put convicted felons back to work.

When a released inmate with a record tries to get a job, employers can turn them down based on their past. For some, crime is the only way to put food on the table.

Pastor De'Andre Brown's Lifeline to Success program helps former inmates get back into society. But the current state law often keeps them from reentering the workforce.

"When you don't give a man the opportunity to provide for his family in the legal arena, he still has to eat," said Pastor De'Andre Brown.

Senator Brian Kelsey sponsored the bill after talking to people in his district.

"I went and I met with various members of the Binghampton community in my district and several of them said, 'We would love to apply for some of these jobs,'" said Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown.

"Yea that's monumental to a guy like me because it gives me opportunity," said Robert Paddaway, a certified computer technician who was convicted on an illegal weapons charge in 1985.

"None of the major corporations or companies will even open the door to me, the second that they find out about my history, I'm gone," said Paddaway, who wants nothing more than to be able to provide for his family. "I'm willing to do anything I just need to get back to work."

"The reason that most of the men and women break the law is because they want to make some money. So, if we give them an avenue where it is consistent and its a fair wage we can break this cycle of crime," said Brown.

Brown says if the legislation is voted into law, it would prevent released inmates from relying on crime to survive.

The bill is still in house and senate subcommittees. It would also protect employers from having a civil suit against them based on negligence for hiring these certificate holders.

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