Nurse assistant applicants with rap sheets to get fresh chance – Governor willing

August 22, 2014

SACRAMENTO, CA — As students, caregivers and others who seek to become certified nursing assistants (CNAs) but have a disqualifying past criminal conviction wait hopefully, Governor Brown will shortly receive a measure from California’s Legislature to allow consideration of evidence of rehabilitation that could allow them to enter one of California’s most needed health care careers.  The Legislature has approved SB 1384, sending the bill, authored by Senator Holly J. Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), to the Governor, who has until the end of September to decide whether to sign it into law.

“It’s in everyone’s interest for people who want to work to get the chance to do so, especially when they have undergone rehabilitation for past mistakes,” said Senator Mitchell, (D-Los Angeles). “Healthcare needs more nursing assistants, people with rap sheets still need to be able to find work, and California needs to certify those who can demonstrate skills and reformed behavior.”

Current California law requires that applicants for CNA positions be automatically and forever denied certification if they have ever been convicted of certain crimes, even when they have served their full sentence and years have passed with evidence of rehabilitation.  Most of those who pursue careers as CNAs are women, often seeking rewarding work in a growing industry of living wage jobs while supporting children. Yet too many are barred from this opportunity because of an old criminal conviction which is far more likely for women than for men, to have resulted from resisting a partner’s abuse of themselves or their children. The proposed law reforms impenetrable barriers to becoming a CNA by allowing relevant evidence of rehabilitation to be considered for past offenders during the certification process.

“Given the number of families that now survive primarily on a woman’s income, treating a past criminal conviction as an insuperable obstacle to employment sentences her family to poverty and the downward spiral to which that leads,” said Senator Mitchell, who chairs the Senate’s Select Committee on Women and Inequality. “Without equitable access to employment, there is no true opportunity, no hope. This bill interrupts that bad cycle.”