Senate committee wants more chances to erase criminal records - Rome News-Tribune: Local

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Senate committee wants more chances to erase criminal records

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Posted: Wednesday, January 8, 2014 2:00 pm

ATLANTA -- A Senate committee is recommending the state make it easier for ex-convicts to erase their criminal records and to block landlords, employers and the press from accessing arrest information.

The report was released Tuesday by the special committee studying the issue, made up of Sens. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus; Hardie Davis, D-Augusta; Jesse Stone, R-Waynesboro; Butch Miller, R-Gainesville and Ronald Ramsey, D-Decatur.

The recommendations include prohibiting companies from asking job candidates about convictions that have been legally wiped away and ending the release of mug shots and booking information.

The committee's report notes that having a criminal record makes getting jobs and housing difficult.

"Ex-offenders who do not secure stable employment are much more likely to recidivate (go back to prison) than their counterparts who find work," the report states.

Although the committee held four hearings and heard testimony from members of the legal and law-enforcement professions as well as government agencies, two groups it didn't hear from disagree with some recommendations, employers and the media.

"Employers should be able to ask questions about convictions," said Sarah Lamar, a member of the Society of Human Resource Managers and an attorney with the Savannah firm HunterMaclean. "... They should be able to use their legitimate business decisions about who gets hired."

And David Hudson, attorney for the Georgia Press Association, warned that withholding release of arrest information is bad policy.

"Of course we have other protections in this country, but the general notion of not allowing the public to know who is arrested, for what, and their identities through photographs would remove great safeguards for individual citizens, and for effective oversight on how police authorities and jailers perform their duties," he said.

While Stone signed off on the report along with the other committee members, he added comments suggesting the state go slow about making big changes.

"We should work with incremental changes to the system and continue to monitor he results so that policy changes are evidence-based," he wrote.

Follow Walter Jones on Twitter @MorrisNews and Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/walter.jones.3958 or contact him at walter.jones@morris.com and (404) 589-8424.

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