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Putting Re-entering Citizens Back to Work

Two years ago, Louisiana created protections for employers that hire those with a criminal record, enacting legislation that limited liability for negligent hiring or failure to supervise unless the employer knew or should have known of the conviction, and the acts were substantially related to the original offense, or if the criminal record included a violent crime or sex offense.

This policy is working to expand employment opportunities for Louisianans, but should be updated to allow a judge to issue a “Certificate of Employability” to those under supervision of a re-entry court. This would expand protection for employers and bolster employment for those supervised by a re-entry court, increasing their chances of a success.

In addition, a policy to limit liability for mentors used by specialty courts in Louisiana would ensure mentors are able to volunteer and serve our communities by guiding and coaching those probationers supervised by the re-entry courts. This, in conjunction with employment, could help to increase the likelihood of stable employment and continued crime-free behavior.

Finally, re-entry courts were started in 2011 in Louisiana, and have now spread across the state to help nonviolent offenders successfully work towards a productive and crime-free life. This initiative was begun as a partnership between judges, district attorneys, other system stakeholders, and the staff at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, in order to increase rehabilitative opportunities and employment of those re-entering society. Programming within the re-entry court includes substance abuse treatment, behavioral therapies, and vocational education at LSP, along with stringent post-release supervision and requirements. The Legislature should work with stakeholders to authorize the establishment of additional courts.