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Archive for May, 2011

The Electronics and Communications Privacy Act: It’s So 1986

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

In 1986, the year the Electronics and Communications Privacy Act (EPCA) was created, the Dewey Decimal System was the closest research tool we had to a Google Search Engine. Crumpled road maps, not GPS systems, helped drivers navigate the roads. Privacy laws are stuck in the snail-mail era, while millions of e-mails, texts and social media messages are exchanged largely unprotected. As privacy continues to be a concern in our electronic world, the 25-year-old EPCA could be getting a much-needed update, offering Americans important protection for their online communications.

U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee recently introduced the EPCA Amendent Act, a bill that would require the government to obtain a warrant before searching private e-mails and data stored on an Internet cloud. Calling the EPCA outdated, Leahy claims federal privacy laws must keep up with rapid changes in technology and law enforcement missions post-911. The bill also removes the 180-day rule that only requires a warrant to search e-mails that are unopened and stored for less than 180 days.

Privacy continues to be challenged, such as when the FBI collected 2,000 names and phone records between 2002-2006 claiming the calls being made related to possible terrorism emergencies. Or when Bradford Councilman, former vice president of then online bookseller Interloc, directed employees to write code that saved communications between customers and Amazon.com. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) cautions that allowing law enforcement broad access to electronic records in the name of ‘cybersecurity’ is unwise.

Job Hunting with a Criminal Background

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

Remember when it took true detective skills to track down your best friend from the third grade? Those days are definitely gone, as the Internet has made privacy almost obsolete. While companies were once required to physically search court records, they may now easily uncover job applicants’ criminal backgrounds using the Internet and a surplus of screening companies. In an already tight job market, at least 21 percent of those job seekers have a criminal record, making job placement even less likely. Read how this is trend has affected millions of Americans.

One in four Americans, almost 65 million people, have some type of criminal record, according to a report by the National Employment Law Project. This number has grown due to stricter sentencing and enforcement for non-violent crimes, such as drug offenses and speeding tickets.

There is no federal law that prohibits discrimination against people with criminal records, but the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (E.E.O.C.) has established rules about how employers may use their found information. (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.) In an economy where jobs are scarce and applicants are abundant, employers often opt for those not carrying legal baggage.

New studies called redemption research find that the risk that an ex-offender will be re-arrested decreases substantially over time, (first time offenders: 7-10 years after conviction) making the chances the same as that of someone of the same age with no record.

If have questions about clearing your record contact an experienced Texas Expunction Attorney.

Does Society Benefit From Blocked Careers?

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

Which is safer: denying ex-cons a job in their chosen profession or having them gainfully employed? The Austin American Statesman explores this issue here.

Each year the debate continues as ex-offenders with criminal pasts are denied state licenses to work as doctors, nurses, barbers, roofers, foundation repairmen, parts recyclers, court interpreters, locksmiths, security guards, plumbers, elevator inspectors, boxing match timekeepers, commercial dog or cat breeders and more than 100 other occupations (nearly a third of the Texas workforce) by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.

According to The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, each applicant is reviewed on a case-by-case basis, and denial for one license for one occupation doesn’t necessarily automatically guarantee denial for another one.

As access to these career fields continue to be blocked, the economy isn’t making things any easier as state legislators such as Republican Florence Shapiro, chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, claims the money the state spends each year on the Windham School District, the public school system for prisoners, should be eliminated. Shapiro thinks it’s the biggest waste of money she’s seen.

The question remains: If rehabilitating people is part of reintegrating them into society, how is this possible when they cannot land a job?