For Ex-Offenders, NJ Judge Opens Door to Good Jobs

Ruling puts 16-year-old state law under fresh scrutiny

By Carla Murphy Dec 13, 2013

In a decision that could affect thousands of ex-offenders, a New Jersey judge last week temporarily banned enforcement of a 1998 state law prohibiting the awarding of trade licenses to anyone owing at least six months’ worth of child support. The law does not distinguish between unintentional and willful failures to pay child support, the plaintiff’s lawyers argued. As a result, the statute hurt ex-offenders like 41-year-old electrician Patrice Dowe, who racked up $31,000 in back child support while serving 10 years in federal prison.

Upon his release in 2009, Dowe, who’d taken classes in medium and low-security prisons to improve his electrician skills, discovered he was ineligible to be licensed as a tradesman. The average annual salary for an electrician, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is about $53,000.

Dowe has two sons. New Jersey could decide to appeal the ruling.

(h/t The Star Ledger)

* The post has been updated from the original.