Bill providing CDL training to inmates a ‘win-win,’ says senator

April 26, 2022

Ryan Witkowski

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Another state is advancing legislation aimed at addressing the perceived driver shortage through commercial driver’s license training.

On April 20, the Connecticut State Senate unanimously passed SB 334, establishing a program offering preparation, instruction and administration of the CDL knowledge test to certain incarcerated individuals.

The program will be available to those with less than six months remaining on their sentence. Participants will be eligible to complete the CDL skills test upon their release. Inmates convicted of a crime that would disqualify them from holding a CDL are not eligible for the program.

Sen. Will Haskell, D-Westport, serves as co-chair of the state’s Transportation Committee and spearheaded the bill. In a news release, Haskell’s office said the intent of the legislation is “to both provide a pathway to good-paying jobs for formerly incarcerated individuals, helping to reduce recidivism and also provide a robust workforce pipeline for the trucking industry during a period of supply chain challenges.”

Haskell called the bill a “win-win.”

“Too often, folks re-entering society struggle to find a job after serving their time behind bars. Tragically, joblessness drives some of these individuals back into crime, and the vicious cycle of recidivism hampers opportunity and growth,” Haskell said in a news release. “Meanwhile, workforce shortages in the trucking industry have strained our supply chain, here in Connecticut and across the country. Our legislation aims to address both problems by helping incarcerated people who are nearing the date of their release to earn a commercial learner’s permit. Entering society with this permit in hand, they’re likely to be recruited for paid apprenticeships, and they may soon find themselves earning over $60,000 per year. That’s a victory for those who are hoping to turn the page and start a new chapter in their life, and it’s a victory for our state’s economy. In short, this bill is a win-win.”

According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, 67.8% of released state prisoners were arrested for a new crime within three years, and 76.7% were arrested within five years.

During a public hearing on the bill in March, The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving testified that preparing inmates for success post release can be integral in reducing recidivism.

“Research has demonstrated that people employed after release are less likely to return to prison. Using time in prison to develop essential skills can increase their ability to qualify for living wage jobs in the community,” the foundation said. “We also need to be committed to ensuring access to education and workforce development programs for men and women while they are incarcerated as an essential strategy for preparing for employment and successful reentry.”

Building on existing models

The bill is the continued efforts of a previous measure. Signed by the governor on July 13, 2021, SB3 called upon the state Department of Corrections to establish a vocational village to provide training for incarnated individuals.

Comparable programs have found success in Michigan and Arizona. Tennessee also is considering similar proposed legislation.

As amended, the legislation requires the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles to assign personnel and provide other resources for the administration of the CDL knowledge test in Department of Correction facilities. The expected annual cost of the program will be $20,000. Additionally, the bill requires the Department of Corrections to make space and technology available to inmates to prepare for and take the CDL knowledge test.

The amended legislation now returns to the House for further consideration. LL

 

TBS