Yesterday we wrote about how Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill which ban, among other things, drug dealers, sex traffickers and murderers from being hired as school bus drivers.
Now uber-blogger Matt Yglesias is out with a thoughtful post blaming what seemed like an obvious measure for being too harsh.
If someone gets out of jail, it’s basically guaranteed that he’s going to want to make some money. One way to make money is to do legal work. Another way is to commit crimes. So I think we should always be leery of new rules restricting the employability of convicts…
Obviously, it’s tough to be the guy who’s going to bat for convicted murderers, pimps, and rapists. But the reality is that most people convicted of these crimes don’t serve life sentences. They don’t get executed either. So they have to do something. And the nature of the modern American economy is that the majority of job opportunities involve interacting with other human beings. If it was up to me, we’d try to draw these restrictions very narrowly. A school bus driver supervised children and pilots a vehicle. Serious curbs on people with records of criminally inept driving seem clearly warranted. Similarly, you could plausibly worry that pedophiles would be interested in driving a school bus for sub-market wages and want to make sure you’re screening them out. But beyond that, what is the job you want your ex-con murderer to be doing? We can’t ship them to Australia. Penalizing ex-cons by making them unemployable is only going to backlash against us in the form of reduced reintegration and more crime.
Yglesias’ point speaks to the political difficulty of reducing tough-on-crime measures even as crime rates drop. Case-in-point: this week a number of elected officials rallied to repeal a law that makes it a criminal offense to carry out in the open a small amount of marijuana, especially since the Bloomberg administration’s stop-and-frisk policy forces people to put their drugs out in the open.
Passage of repeal however seems unlikely in the short-term.