Fresh Start Act aims at repeat offenders

(Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A bipartisan group of state lawmakers hope to cut down on the number of repeat prison offenders with a bill they call the Fresh Start Act.

Around 13,000 felons are released yearly from Tennessee jails and prisons, but finding a job can be difficult.

The lawmakers hope they can put a dent in those numbers.

“They pay their debt to society, they leave their incarceration [and] then they are punished a second time,” said Republican Senator Kerry Roberts.

Part of the Fresh Start Act states that “a licensing authority shall not deny an application for a license…. solely or in part due to a prior criminal conviction that does not directly relate to the applicable occupation.”

The lawmakers said that right now, almost every licensing board can deny a license due to a criminal past.

“What better way to make sure they don’t return to prison than to give them licensure so they can get a job and take care of their families,” Democrat Senator Lee Harris said.

He and the other lawmakers said 110 types of jobs and trades in Tennessee need licenses and this bill “removes barriers” for felons who have paid their debt.

Lawmakers said felons who did their time for drug-related crimes are the most likely to benefit from the Fresh Start Act.

The seriousness of a crime, along with the passage of time, would be other considerations for either denying or granting a job license that could help a past felon stay out of prison again.

The Fresh Start Act also would allow felons to see up front what crimes might keep them from getting a license.