Bill aims to help former convicts

THE BRONX - New legislation signed by Gov. David Paterson aims to help former convicts attain barber and cosmetology licenses.

The bill was in part inspired by a Bronx man, Marc LaCloche, who in 2003 said he was denied the opportunity to become a barber. LaCloche says his application was rejected because his past history reflected a lack of moral character.

?If you want people who are ex-offenders to be rehabilitated back to society and they have a skill to offer, why not let them work and earn a living?? asks Assemblyman Michael Benjamin (D-Morrisania).

It?s expected that many ex-convicts will have an opportunity to accomplish just that after Paterson signed the bill into law. The legislation would allow ex-offenders to apply skills they have learned in jail and not be denied a license based on their past.

Barbers who work at the Six Corners shop on 163rd Street say that life should be about second chances. They say that as long as someone is willing to get their life back in order, they should be given an opportunity to do so.

?I've done it in the past. I've hired a lot of ex-cons,? says shop owner Elijah Bell. ?And I don't look at them as ex-cons, I look at them as barbers.?

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