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Sex offenses and employment restrictions: taking the bar exam

In theory, the American justice system contains a commitment to rehabilitation. If that is so, then someone who has served the sentence should be allowed a chance to rebuild his or her life - not be sanctioned indefinitely.

But the structure of our society makes it hard for ex-offenders to do this. Employment applications often ask about past convictions, and that is why some states have passed "ban the box" legislation to keep employers from screening out ex-offenders from consideration for jobs before they are even given a chance.

In this post, we will take note of a current case that raises the issue of restrictions on employment for registered sex offenders.

The case involves a man on the sex offender registry in Kentucky who was denied the opportunity to take the bar exam to become a licensed attorney there. The man had graduated in the top third of his class in law school. But the state Supreme Court blocked him from taking the test.

The court refused, however, to embrace a hard-and-fast rule that no one who is on the sex offender registry should be allowed to take the bar exam. Instead, the court said that such cases should be decided on a case-by-case basis.

The man who was denied the chance to take the bar exam had been convicted of a child pornography possession charge in 2007. His five-year prison term was suspended and he served no prison time. But he still had to register as a sex offender, and that registration is not scheduled to end until 2027.

In short, the case shows how hard it can be to overcome the stigma that society attaches to sex offenses.

Source: The Washington Post, "Sex offender seeks admission to Kentucky bar," Jan. 5, 2014

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