It's no secret that anyone with a felony conviction on their record is going to have a difficult time finding a job.
Someone with a history of violent crime is unlikely to be hired to work with the general public. A person convicted of embezzlement isn't going to get that available accounting job.
But proponents of giving people who have paid their debt to society a second chance say convicted felons deserve an equal opportunity in the hiring process.
Former State Sen. Ernie Newton, convicted in 2006 on corruption charges, recently urged members of the state's Sentencing Commission to recommend to legislators a proposal that would enact certain measures that may help a convict find a job.
"Being an ex-felon is almost discriminatory because everywhere you go the door is closed on you," Newton told the group at a hearing late last month.
While Newton, who wants to get back into politics despite convictions including accepting bribes and stealing campaign funds, may not be the best example of someone deserving a second chance at their job, Sentencing Commission members acknowledge that more can be done to assist convicted felons get back on their feet.
A proposal called "Certificates of Rehabilitation" would enable a judge or the Board of Pardons and Paroles to issue such a certificate stating that the person is rehabilitated since the time of the offense. The certificate wouldn't mandate that the person be hired and wouldn't be issued to all convicted felons getting out of prison. But advocates say it still might help some people restart their lives.
"The thinking is, if we had some sort of a system to give individuals a good housekeeping seal of approval, that would be meaningful to a potential employer to sort of overcome this stigma of being a convicted criminal," said Michael Lawlor, undersecretary of criminal justice for the governor and vice chair of the Sentencing Commission.
Lawlor said the ex-convict would have the certificate to show an employer that "for what it's worth when I got sentenced the judge said I did something wrong but it doesn't affect my ability to do this or that kind of job. That might help someone get over that hump."
For instance, Lawlor said a person convicted of cocaine possession years ago who has since turned their life around might make a really good employee. But that conviction on their record may remove them from consideration.