Legislating Forgiveness: A Study of Post-Conviction Certificates as Policy to Address the Employment Consequences of a Conviction

Heather Garretson, 25 Public Interest Law Journal 

(February 2016)
Legislating Forgiveness: A Study of Post-Conviction Certificates as Policy to Address the Employment Consequences of a Conviction

According to the article's author, states have recently started addressing the employment paradox with legislation. This legislation authorizes an administrative relief mechanism – often a certificate of some kind – that is intended to lift employment barriers and encourage employers to consider applicants with a criminal record. New York State has the oldest and most robust certificate system, and is a model for much of the recent certificate legislation.

This paper contains the first (at time of publishing) comprehensive research on New York’s certificates. The research asks whether New York’s certificates are accessible and relevant to employment. It combines statutory analysis with qualitative research. It is a study of how certificate legislation is supposed to work – and how it actually does. It examines a statutory scheme that is recently replicated but empirically empty.

Through interviews with judges, people with certificates or those eligible but without one, attorneys, current and former probation officials, service providers, and advocates, this paper provides insights into the use of certificates, their challenges, and examines how legislating more of the same can effectively address the employment paradox.