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Cuomo orders ex-prisoners to be given breaks in housing, jobs

ALBANY - Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is making it harder to deny public housing and jobs to prisoners because of their convictions under new directives issued Monday.

Cuomo took executive action to:

-- No longer allow former prisoners to be denied subsidized and public housing only because of their conviction. Operators of state and federal housing programs will now have to detail their objection, which would have to include proof of any danger to other tenants.

-- Provide a "presumption towards granting a license" to ex-prisoners who seek state licenses including those needed to be barbers, paramedics and real estate brokers unless the prisoner record of the applicant shows reason to deny the application.

-- No longer require applicants for jobs in state agencies to discuss or disclose information about prior convictions unless the agency has already "interviewed the candidate and is interested in hiring him or her." The idea is to provide a better chance for prisoners to advance in the hiring process.

-- Provide former prisoners access to homeless programs.

-- Improve and speed the prison system in awarding "Certificates of Relief from Disabilities" and "Certificates of Good Conduct" to prisoners when they leave incarceration.

-- Create system for former prisoners to produce videos to prospective employers to "overcome negative preconceptions."

-- Allow prisoners to keep more of the money sent to them from the outside, rather than have all of it diverted to restitution and fines. However, Cuomo said paying fines and restitution will remain the "first and principal obligation of all convicted individuals and restitution will be paid in full."

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