Having joined the likes of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, Florida TaxWatch has come out as a pro-business group in support of modifying the ways in which sealing and expungement laws currently work. In their report (PDF warning) on the state of employment opportunities for people with criminal records, Florida TaxWatch has made it clear that the "life sentence after the sentence" is a real phenomenon that has impacted society as a whole.
Confirming what research has made clear through the years, stable employment is found as one the key factors in determining whether someone becomes another recidivism statistic or is able to get back on their feet. After outlining just how damaging a criminal record is on a person's life, the organization lists out a few recommendations that they believe the state should adopt.
First, educational, vocational, and reentry programs should be expanded. If a person in Florida can't seal or expunge their record, they should at least have access to resources and opportunities while behind bars as well as upon release. Continued educational and employment assistance is perhaps the most important requirement for a society that allows those without the ability to clear their criminal records to get a second chance.
Second, the group recommends that the state of Florida adopt a statewide version of the federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit. For employers who hire people with criminal records that were unable to seal or expunge their record, they are afford a tax cut if they hire ex-cons that fit a certain set of qualifications. This will make hiring ex-cons a financially reasonable choice as well as a good business choice.
Third, and finally, Florida TaxWatch recommends that Florida adopt a Certificate of Rehabilitation plan. This will allow judges and the Florida Commission on Offender Review to provide people who can't seal or expunge their criminal records in Florida with the ability to obtain a judicial order that shows they have successfully completed their sentence and shown real commitment to a crime-free lifestyle.
Florida TaxWatch Executive Vice President Robert Weissert commented on the fact that "nearly 3 million Floridians have a criminal record" and the state should not bar this significant portion of the population from finding proper opportunities to get good jobs, seek higher education with scholarships, or even find better housing.
By proposing a compromise measure of introducing a Certificate of Rehabilitation, Weissert hopes that it shows "future employers and society at large that that individual has been rehabilitated and that they have certain skills and possess characteristics that would make them a good employment candidate, even if they have this criminal record."