Tennessee bills would help ex-felons on path to employment

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Finding a job after getting out of prison can be tough, but state leaders are looking to make it easier for some ex-offenders to land on their feet.

Life after prison can be tough--even if a person does have a plan in place.

"If a person didn't have that criminal background, he or she may have been provided with that opportunity," Philander Butler said.

Butler went back to school after getting out of prison and found a job, but he says it wasn't easy.

Senator Lee Harris says two new bill being debated now were created with people like Butler in mind.

They would allow licensing boards to only deny licenses if an employee`s criminal background is directly related to the position they`re applying for.

"It's a crime prevention strategy to make sure people have work. It's the best kind," he said.

Senator Harris says last year 13,000 people got out of prison in Tennessee.

He believes the best way to drive crime down is to reduce obstacles that could keep them from returning to a life of crime.

"If we don't do it they'll commit more crimes, create more victims of broken families and the cost of incarceration," Senator Harris said.

He says there are plenty of people who want to leave a life of crime behind to become cosmetologists, accountants or contractors.

"There are a lot of jobs out there where you need a certificate are license. We just don't want anyone turned down only based on their criminal history,"

The bills also allow a license to be denied if an candidate has been convicted of some specific, serious felonies.