A Clean Slate for Former NY State Drug Criminals

The debate between to run or to not run a background check is often in the print media, with articles about employers not running a background check on a candidate – only to find the candidate has a criminal past – or candidates and employers questioning about whether background and drug tests are necessary for certain occupations. Another element is added into the picture with drug convicted ex-criminals having their records erased for a certain number of crimes. As reported in the Empire State News, criminals, as of June 8, 2009, will have their drug crime records sealed for a certain number of crimes – maximum of four with some exceptions – and, essentially, given a second chance.

Columnist Bill Hammond seems to think this works in theory but theory, only, as the new state law in New York doesn’t allow any exceptions for occupations, except for police officers. Other occupations involving contact with the public, such as teachers, caretakers, receptionists, and nannies, are open to being filled by a person with a past of crimes and drug-related charges – only none of these will show up on a background check.

The New York state law allows up to four non-violent crimes to, really, be expunged when considering an ex-con for employment, but is this fair? In theory, drug criminals should be given a second chance to be clean and create a life, with a new job, minus the illegal substance. As many criminals after getting out of prison return again on different or similar charges at one point or another, would drug criminals be any different? Should children, the elderly, or any member of the public be trusting themselves – or parents entrusting their children – with a former criminal, drug charges or not?

While the New York law is beneficial for helping former drug convicts with a better life, it needs to be significantly revised. For starters, if a criminal past including drug charges is to be erased in a background check, the former convict should be limited to certain occupations, particularly those in which an ex-con won’t be in a situation in which he or she has the potential to harm another individual or commit an act of violence.