Approximately 5,000 people are released from Tennessee prisons each year, seeking to rebuild their lives. Finding a job is crucial to them getting back on their feet. However, currently, almost every state licensing board can deny a professional license based on a person’s past criminal record, including many low-level misdemeanors.
The “Fresh Start Act,” SB 2465/HB 2248, sponsored by Rep. Jeremy Faison and Sen. Kerry Roberts, would ensure that licensing authorities do not deny applications for professional licenses due to prior criminal convictions unless they are directly related to the profession, with the exception of certain felonies.
Under this legislation, for example, if a person has a series of breaking and entering felonies over the past few years, he can be denied a license to be a locksmith or an alarm installer. But if he has a DUI from 10 years ago, he can’t be denied a license to be a barber. This legislation also creates an appeals process, which does not exist under current law.
This bill strikes the appropriate balance between protecting public safety and preserving the right to earn a living for those who made mistakes in the past.