On Saturday, SB 361, which establishes a certificate of rehabilitation, will be heard in the Senate Judiciary committee. 

The proposal, supported by the ideological diverse Montana Coalition for Public Safety, creates a way for formerly incarcerated individuals to apply for a certificate of rehabilitation from a judge from the court of residence, court of sentencing, or district court. 

This certificate helps formerly incarcerated people returning to their communities in that it reduces barriers to finding employment, housing, or educational opportunities.  

“This bill reduces barriers for formerly incarcerated people to find employment while at the same time ensures liability protections for businesses who employ or house them,” said Bridger Mahlum with the Montana Chamber of Commerce.  “Businesses, communities, and individuals will all benefit if this bill becomes law.” 

In addition to showing employers, occupational licensing agencies, or housing rental agencies that those with the certificate have proven to have rehabilitated themselves, the certificate of rehabilitation also ensures liability protections for businesses who employ or house people who are formerly incarcerated.  The certificate also prohibits former incarceration as a reason for denying a recipient an occupational license or school admittance. 

“When an individual has a certificate of rehabilitation issued by the state of Montana in their hand, they will have an easier time finding a job and a place to live,” said David Herbst, State Director for Americans for Prosperity- Montana.  “We’ve seen other states successfully use programs like these to improve criminal justice outcomes, Montana should learn from their experiences and improve on them.” 

The Montana Coalition for Public Safety Coalition believes that reforming and improving the re-entry system for people returning to their families, communities, and work after being incarcerated is one of the best ways to lower recidivism rates. 

“Two of the major challenges for people returning to their communities after being incarcerated are finding employment and finding a place to live,” said S.K. Rossi with Central House Strategies, lobbying on behalf of the ACLU of Montana. “This bill is a step toward ensuring that formerly incarcerated people are not discriminated against in these markets and puts Montana on a path toward creating healthy and thriving communities.”

The bill lays out specific requirements for somebody to petition a judge to issue them a certificate of rehabilitation and also explains how an individual could potentially lose that certificate. 

The Montana Coalition for Public Safety includes the following organizations: ACLU of Montana, Americans for Prosperity-Montana, the Montana Chamber of Commerce, the Montana Innocence Project, Western Native Voice, Frontier Institute, Montana Budget & Policy Center, the Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, the Montana Human Rights Network, Montana Women Vote, Montana Racial Equity Project, and Disability Rights Montana.