On March 3, 2022, ACLU of Connecticut Smart Justice leader Alex Brown testified before the Labor and Public Employees Committee in support of HB 5248, a bill that would work to end employment discrimination against people living with a record. Here is her testimony:
Hello Representative Porter, Senator Kushner and ranking members Senator Sampson, Representative Arora and distinguished members of the Labor and Public Employees Committee.
My name is Alex Brown and I am a Smart Justice Leader with the ACLU of Connecticut. I am here today to testify in support of “HB 5248, An Act Concerning Collateral Consequences of Criminal Convictions on Occupational Licensing,”
I am currently a student at Central Connecticut State University working towards a degree in social work. I am also a person living with a record. I have experienced the first-hand challenges and frustrations of trying to rebuild my life after I’ve paid my debt to society from my conviction 10 years ago. Today, I am in college, majoring in social work because I want to address the mountain of problems around mass incarceration, and because I passionately believe that all people deserve an equal opportunity.
Unfortunately, due to my background, the barriers for myself and others who society is refusing to accept are suffocating, and I know that my next career steps of becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker will be especially complicated, if not impossible, due to my record.
Employment barriers faced by people living with a criminal record has only gotten worse since the COVID-19 pandemic. Agencies working to help find people with records employment found that compared to 2019, only half as many people looking for jobs were able to find placements.
People living with a record are less likely to have access to unemployment insurance, sick leave, health insurance and rainy-day savings. Experts estimated that once jobs start coming back, people with criminal records will likely be the last to see their unemployment rates lower.
It’s also important to note that these harmful employment effects are not distributed equally across society. Racial disparities in Connecticut’s criminal legal system are also replicated when people return home from incarceration. Because Black and Latino people are disproportionately incarcerated, they are likewise disproportionately rejected when they return to the community and seek to build a life worth living. Poor chances of employment or stable housing have a devastating impact on Black and brown people.
Every person who is living with a record needs an opportunity to be able to support themselves and provide stability for their families. This is true for people who are just beginning their reentry process, as well for people who have been back in their communities for decades. People, like myself, living with a record have a lot to contribute to Connecticut, and we should be eliminating barriers to employment and licensing so that people can become truly successful members of this state.
I hope to graduate next year from CCSU and look forward to being able to apply my skills that will welcome my passion and expertise to help people. But I fear that I will not get that opportunity, or that Connecticut won’t allow me to advance in my career solely due to my record. That is why I strongly urge the committee to pass “HB 5248” and give us the chance to become successful members of Connecticut.
Thank you for listening to my testimony.