PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Jay Parker has two nearly 20-year-old felony marijuana convictions on his record. The Cranston man served his sentence and got his life together, but he said his rap sheet cost him jobs whenever a prospective employer asked if he had a criminal record.
‘‘The person who stands before you now is not that knucklehead of 18 years ago,’’ said Parker, who now works at the Rhode Island Convention Center.
Parker is urging state lawmakers to pass legislation that would prohibit most public and private-sector employers from asking about criminal convictions on job applications. He was one of several supporters of the bill to speak at a Statehouse press conference Wednesday.
The proposal wouldn’t apply to jobs at casinos, hospitals, schools, nursing homes or other workplaces where background checks are required by law.
Dozens of cities including Providence, Boston and Chicago already have laws in place prohibiting criminal background questions from applications for public-sector jobs.
The proposal in Rhode Island would go further by prohibiting most private employers from asking about convictions on an application. Similar legislation has failed in the legislature in previous years, however.
The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Harold Metts, said too many rehabilitated ex-offenders struggle to find work because of potential employers ask applicants to check a job application box if they have a past conviction. The Providence Democrat said the practice contributes to criminal recidivism and deprives ex-offenders of a chance to support their families.
Similar legislation is set to be introduced in the House by state Rep. Scott Slater, D-Providence. He said offenders who serve their sentences shouldn’t be burdened years later with diminished employment prospects.
‘‘I've never seen a judge sentence anyone to a lifetime of unemployment,’’ he said. ‘‘Who’s not in favor of second chances?’’
The bills have not been assigned to committees or scheduled for a hearing.