Companies could get tax credits for hiring felons

Getting out of prison can be tough for many convicted felons, not just adjusting to the outside world, but finding a way to fit in.

Jobs remains one of the biggest obstacles to making that transition, but a Miami lawmaker is proposing an idea that might provide an incentive for companies to hire them.

State Rep. Cynthia Stafford, D-Miami, has introduced H.B. 121, which would allow companies that employ a convicted felon with a $1,000 one-time tax break.

If the current form is passed and signed into law, any company that hires a felon beginning Jan. 1, 2016, and keeps them employed for at least a year, can take a corporate tax credit. It’s only good once for each new employee, and would not apply to anyone who was classified as a violent career criminal, a habitual felony offender of both the violent and non-violent kind, or a three-time violent offender.

The credit could be used for sexual offenders and sexual predators, provided they are properly registered with the state, according to Stafford’s bill.

There are not many ways for convicts to get jobs once they serve their time, and there are few programs to help them. Some advocates to helping convicts no longer serving sentences believe that without the chance to get a job, they’ll simply end up back behind bars.

A 2010 report from the Center for Economic and Policy Research, found that while between 80 and 90 percent of employers would consider hiring former welfare recipients or workers with little recent work experience, only about 40 percent would consider hiring people with criminal records, especially for jobs that involved customer relations or handling money.

The Florida Department of Corrections offers what it calls a re-entry program that provide a number of services, including job placement.

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