Vargas Vidot to present bills to benefit former prisoners
Independent senator José Vargas Vidot gathered Friday with representatives from the community of confined and formerly confined individuals in Puerto Rico, to hear their concerns and develop bills in favor of this marginalized sector.
After the meeting, the senator told journalists he will present three legislative measures, two of them by request, aimed at changing the system of criminal-backgrounds records so minor crimes don’t negatively impact a former prisoner’s reinsertion process into society, as it currently happens.
The first bill would consider which major crimes can be eliminated from an individual’s criminal background certification in a period of less than five years, since “not all” crimes imply the person will pose a threat to society five years after exiting prison.
Likewise, the second bill would be aimed at how to prevent professional colleges from impeding former prisoners to exercise their professions.
The third bill is a resolution to study the profile of Puerto Rican prisoners, so legislators could be informed “with the correct documentation.”
Presently, there are more than 16,000 confined persons in local prisons, while an estimated 30,000 are in the streets with suspended sentences, electronic monitoring devices, or out on bail, he indicated.
“We want to eliminate the instruments that create discrimination [against the confined],” affirmed Vargas Vidot, who has stood out for his community service, especially with people suffering from addiction to controlled substances.
The legislator stated that among those who attended the meeting was former prisoner Juan Rolón, who presented two of the bills by request and shared the obstacles he has faced to re-enter the labor market.
Also present was boxer Mónica González, who won the bronze medal for Puerto Rico in the past Pan American Games in Toronto. She is one of the people who have suffered due to criminal background checks, despite representing the island internationally.
Therefore, Vargas Vidot held a meeting with designated Recreation and Sports Secretary Waldemar Volmar to intervene for González, who was denied a scholarship for those reasons.