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Former Lawmaker & Ex-Felon Wants To Stop Discrimination

by Hugh McQuaid | Nov 30, 2012 6:30am
(10) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Equality, Town News, Bridgeport, Hartford, Legal, State Capitol

Hugh McQuaid photo

Ernie Newton

Former state Sen. Ernie Newton on Thursday offered the state Sentencing Commission insight into his life after prison and asked them to address hiring discrimination against ex-felons.

Newton was convicted in 2006 on corruption charges and resigned from the state senate before serving four years in a federal prison.

On Thursday he testified at a public hearing on a proposal aimed at easing inmates’ transition back into society. He used five minutes to encourage the commission to support a plan to provide ex-felons a “certificate of rehabilitation” to avoid discrimination.

“Being in an ex-felon is almost discriminatory because everywhere you go the door is closed on you,” Newton said, wearing a bright blue suit.

Newton said he was proud the state has seen fit to pass laws making it illegal to discriminate against gays and lesbians.

“But yet we’ll let people discriminate against felons and that goes unnoticed,” he said.

Newton said he had paid his debt to society and this year he decided to run for his old senate seat representing Bridgeport. He and current Bridgeport Sen. Ed Gomes lost out to Andres Ayala during the Democratic primary. But he said he ran into discrimination when he applied for public campaign funds.

“They didn’t want to give it to me. That shouldn’t have been. They should have looked at the law and said ‘He met the requirements. He shouldn’t be discriminated against.’ Our system, as it stands today, is a system that’s been broken for a long time,” Newton said.

Newton was sentenced for accepting a $5,000 bribe, evading taxes, and pilfering campaign contributions to pay for car repairs, personal cellphone calls, and other expenses.

He said that people don’t come out of prison looking to commit more crimes, they come out wanting to be a productive member of society, he said.

“And what happens? We force them to do the wrong thing because when a man or a woman can’t find a place to live, can’t find a job, they’re going to revert to what they know,” Newton said before being interrupted for going over his allotted time.

In a quick summation, Newton said ex-felons need to be added to the classes of people against whom it’s illegal to discriminate.

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(10) Comments

posted by: Lawrence | November 30, 2012  9:06am

Did the Connecticut Business and Industry Association testify?
Because they have been very active in efforts to secure jobs for ex-offenders; the HR page on their website has lots of information on this topic.

posted by: Breakingbad23 | November 30, 2012  10:27am

So let me get this straight. Newton is upset because the state hesitated to give campaign funds to a man convicted of accepting bribes while a state senator? I’d like to know how a convicted felon can even run for elected office again?

posted by: JAM | November 30, 2012  10:59am

I’ve hired more than a few ex-felons. Just like the general population, some work out-some don’t.
However, I think it’s fair for a prospective employer to take into account the nature of the crime and the the responsibilities of the position being filled. For example, just because a thief has “paid his/her debt to society” for the specific crimes for which he/she was convicted doesn’t mean an employer should be required to put him/her in a position of trust because he/she has a “Certificate.”
And getting out of jail hardly amounts to being certifiably rehabilitated. There’s plenty of evidence to disprove that.

posted by: NoNonsense2012 | November 30, 2012  12:43pm

@Breakingbad23: There is no background check for elected office except for President, I think. Anybody, even a convicted felon, can run for elected office. Some of them even win. Naugatuck and Washington, DC, both re-elected mayors who had been convicted of felonies.

posted by: JAM | November 30, 2012  1:59pm

@ Nononsense:there’s no background check for the president. If there were all this stuff about where BHO was born would have moot.
The only requirents for president are in the Constitution ( one of which is being a native born citizen), and passing a background check isn’t one of them.
Besides who would decide who passed, and who didn’t. The job of the press is to publicize the background, and the voters decide. It’s a matter of opinion as how well that’s working.
As for felons running for office, I think that’s primarily a matter of local law. Used to be that many jurisdictions required a candidate to an eligible voter, and denied felons the right to vote. I’m sure that has changed a lot, but it still probably varies from state to state.

posted by: Cornelia | November 30, 2012  5:22pm

Ernie I wouldn’t trust you as far as I can throw you.  You and the rest of the felons who stole the public trust and not only did you receive a state salary but you also were taking bribes on the side because jeeze ‘I’m entitled.’  You should be ashamed to even appear before any such hearing - in public - give it up and get a job on the John Rowland show.

posted by: stellathecat | November 30, 2012  5:34pm

Senator Newton may not be the best poster boy for giving former felons opportunity to work. He had a penchant for uncontrolable ranting while in both the House and the Senate. Most of the Commissioners were probably tuned out.

posted by: Lawrence | November 30, 2012  8:26pm

Felon John Rowland seemed to have no trouble at all getting a big-city job from a third-party, right-wing mayor, a right-wing radio talk show on the CBS radio network (WTIC-AM 1080), and hired as a consultant for right-wing GOP Congressional candidate Lisa Wilson-Foley (you know, the one whose husband didn’t commit any crime by paying Rowland a campaign adviser fee under the guise of his expert advice on health care homes? yeah, that guy.)

Seems like the right-wing GOP has no trouble finding jobs for ex-felons.

posted by: DrHunterSThompson | December 1, 2012  10:58am

Ernie, my man!  It was good to see you brother.  But man, you have got to be kidding right?  Keep your head down, find a job downtown.  Play it on the low-down .....

HST

posted by: mmal231294 | December 5, 2012  12:19pm

The poster child for the “No Shame” generation.