New Law Helps Ex-offenders Get Back in Workforce

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WILKES-BARRE -- Governor Tom Wolf promises people with minor criminal histories will no longer have to carry the consequences of their actions in the state of Pennsylvania.

The governor signed a bill into law Tuesday that will help ex-offenders get back into the workforce.

The new law applies to nonviolent, low-level misdemeanor offenders who have served their time and remained free of crime for several years. The law allows them to petition a court to have their record expunged.

Some business owners in our area think the new law will help ex-offenders to get back into the workforce.

Carmen Tinson has owned Carmen's Shop in downtown Wilkes-Barre for 15 years. Before her hair salon on Main Street found success, she struggled to find a job because she had a criminal record.

Her story, and many others like it, prompted a new law in Pennsylvania that helps ex-offenders get back into the workforce.

"It took me a long time to be able to find employment or get a job because of things I did in the past when I was younger, and thank God the blessing came where I was able to own my own [business] and not have to work for anyone else," Tinson said.

The law allows nonviolent, low-level misdemeanor offenders who have served their time and remained free of crime for seven to 10 years to petition a court to have their record expunged.

"It's just a huge problem in this country and it's a big problem in Pennsylvania because it destroys lives by giving someone a blemish on their record," said Governor Wolf.

The governor stated that a criminal record often carries a lifetime of consequences that can not only impact the ex-offender, but also their family.

"It keeps them from getting a job and it might even keep them from getting into a college or a school."

People at Pennsylvania CareerLink in Wilkes-Barre think the new law might encourage more people to get out into the workforce.

"There are some employers who will just not hire anyone with a criminal history, so if their records can be expunged, they will have a better chance of getting employment," said Christine Jensen, Luzerne County Pennsylvania CareerLink administrator.

We asked some downtown businesses owners like Sal Mantione at Alpine Downtown Eatery if he would feel uncomfortable hiring someone with a criminal record.

"As long as they are forthright and they don't lie if you ask them about it, I have no problem with that. It will get them back on their feet and productive human beings," Mantione said.

According to the governor, the criminal records won't disappear completely.

Law enforcement and state licensing agencies will continue to have access to the records, but they will no longer create an obstacle for people looking for work or housing.


  • Denise Traver

    This is a great step forward. Many individuals face a lifetime of problems gaining employment and housing for mistakes they made when they were young. It is time to move toward by letting them show that they are capable and willing to be good community members. We need to stop punishing people for a lifetime based on errors in judgement they made when they were young.

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