Rep. Angel Demapan (R-Saipan) has introduced a bill that would essentially provide incentives in the form of tax breaks to employers that hire non-violent ex-offenders.
Demapan introduced last Wednesday the Responsible Reintegration Act in the House of Representatives during a House session. He explained that the bill is modeled after the United States’ “Second Chance Act” that aims to help ex-convicts transition back into the community.
“The intent of this bill is really to give our nonviolent ex-offenders who complete their sentences and are ready to reintegrate back into the community an opportunity and a pathway to employment,” Demapan said.
The bill was unanimously adopted by the House of Representatives during last Wednesday’s session and has been referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means just in time for the CNMI’s celebration of Re-entry Week.
“Today, I took the opportunity to introduce the bill because the CNMI is about to observe or is observing Re-entry Week. And this is really one of those programs and services that other jurisdictions promote for re-entry, and reintegration. So it’s referred to the committee. Hopefully we will have an opportunity to move that legislation this term,” Demapan said.
He said the most important part for him is to help ex-offenders become contributing members of the CNMI because, based on the testimonies of employers who already hire ex-offenders, they are some of the most hardworking employees they have.
“The most important thing is we help the nonviolent ex-offender become a contributing member of our society and we grow our own labor workforce. Honestly, some of the businesses already hire nonviolent ex-offenders, and some of these businesses have come forward. I’ve shared that these are some of the most valuable employees in the organization because they’ve been given a second chance at life. And they take that extra step to make sure that they don’t squander that opportunity,” he said.
Demapan explained that the bill, if enacted into law, is open to all employers who choose to help ex-offenders reintegrate back into society.
“This opportunity is on the employer side. What this bill aims to do is to really give a tax incentive—for a minimum of two tax years—to our business community who employ nonviolent ex-offenders,” he said.
The bill would essentially waive tax obligations for qualified employers for up to two years or up to $10,000 per employee.
“The tax incentive really comes by way of waiving the tax obligation the employer would have had on that employee’s wages and salary. So instead of paying the tax, we rebate that tax back to the employer, but up to only a certain amount, and I believe in this legislation is up to $10,000 per employee. It really is a full cycle that comes back around. Instead of the employer paying for the income tax, it becomes a tax break for them, for their demonstration of trying to help reintegrate these people back,” he said.