Future of popular criminal justice proposal that seeks to offer people with records greater access to jobs hinges on Mitch McConnell

In the aftermath of the Mueller hearings, Congress is pivoting to policy debates, and a top priority for both chambers is the NDAA (the defense spending bill), a version of which has passed both chambers and will be intensely negotiated in conference committee. Buried in the House version is an amendment that includes “The Fair Chance to Compete for Jobs Act of 2019,” a bipartisan bill and perhaps the Administration’s only shot at a criminal justice reform win this year. The decision to include the measure will again fall to Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell.

In advance of negotiations, the Justice Action Network commissioned a poll by respected Republican pollster Robert Blizzard with Public Opinion Strategies, who polls for dozens of Republican senators and congressmen. The national survey of 800 registered voters showed overwhelming public support for the measure, which has been adopted in more than 30 states.   

Key findings of the poll include:

  • More than 80% of American voters support the Fair Chance proposal.
  • Support for the Fair Chance proposal is high across the ideological spectrum, receiving support from 73% of conservatives, 87% of moderates and 93% of liberals.
  • By nearly four-to-one, Americans would be more likely to re-elect their Member of Congress if they voted for this proposal.
  • Generally, 75% of Americans believe the country’s criminal justice system needs significant improvements.
  • Almost every American believes that a criminal record makes it harder for a person to find a job, and they overwhelmingly believe those who cannot find a job are more likely to recommit a crime. 

“Criminal justice Reform continues to be a political win for any leader who supports it, and this Fair Chance Act is an absolute slam dunk, with more than 80% of voters across the political spectrum supporting the measure,” said Blizzard. “Leaders on the Hill, especially those facing competitive re-elects back home, would be crazy not to dive onto a bill with these numbers, designed to get government out of the way and put people back to work.” 

Studies show a third of American adults, roughly 70 million Americans, has some criminal history. The Fair Chance Act, which ensures people with records are not summarily dismissed from the federal hiring process, and enjoys strong support from major advocacy organizations from the left to the right, including the Justice Action Network, American Conservative Union, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Faith & Freedom Coalition, National Employment Law Project, FAMM, Prison Fellowship, FreedomWorks, R Street Institute, Safer Foundation, and JustLeadershipUSA. These groups, along with former U.S. Attorney Brett Tolman, Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute Stan Veuger, and Matthew Charles – the first man freed under the First Step Act, have all signed on in support of the legislation. 

“The Fair Chance to Compete for Jobs Act of 2019” is sponsored by Representatives Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and Doug Collins (R-GA) in the House, and Senators Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) in the Senate.