STATE LAWS BAR EX-OFFENDERS FROM FINDING WORK by Roxanne Escobales

01/24/07
WMNF Drive-Time News Monday

Florida has the third largest prison population in the country, and very convoluted laws determining what jobs ex-offenders can or cannot hold. Yesterday the Florida senate committee on criminal justice heard that the state needs to make it easier for those coming out of prison to find work.

 

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Vicki Lopez Lukis is the chair of the Governor’s Ex-offender Task Force who presented the report to the senate committee. She says that a lack of work leads some to re-offend, which is known as recidivism.

 

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Bail bondsman Frank Kopczynski also is the chair of the Pinellas Ex-Offenders Re-entry Coalition, or PERC. He says there’s no rhyme or reason to the many different levels of restrictions on employment for ex-offenders. One friend of his who spent time in prison was trained as a physical therapist.

 

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The Task Force’s Vicki Lukis calls the current state of regulations a “patchwork” of laws.

 

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PERC’s Frank Kopczynski says many of the restrictions don’t make sense.

 

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Lukis says this comes from years of too many different trade bodies determining the rules with no state guidance.

 

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The effect of the patchwork means that those fresh out of prison must settle for low paying jobs, if they can get past the social stigma of their criminal past. Not only is it hard to find work, says Kopczynski, but its hard to find support period.

 

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The Governors Ex-Offenders Task Force would like to see the rules streamlined into one blanket law. Vicki Lukis says there’s already one on the books that works, and the rest should be scrapped.

 

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After hearing from the Task Force, State senator Victor Crist from Tampa filed a motion for the Criminal Justice Committee to write a bill on overhauling the laws that restrict access to employment for ex-offenders. If it gets a House co-sponsor, it could be voted on as early as the regular session in March.

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