By Jessica Kartalija

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A new bill to be heard in Annapolis is aimed at helping former inmates get back on their feet.

Jessica Kartalija reports the Maryland Second Chance Act will help those with a criminal history find a place to live and work.

Things are cooking at the Community Kitchen in East Baltimore. That helps Marylanders get a second slice at life.

“The kitchen isn’t just a training facility for people who need and deserve a second chance at life. We are a commercial grade kitchen and we provide meals for people throughout the city,” said Derek Neal, Community Kitchen.

What makes this kitchen unique is that it caters to former prison inmates, training them for employment and careers in food service.

“My experience with this program has helped me reach my career goals as far as becoming a head chef and owning my own business,” said Dequan Wilkins.

“I like it because it prepares ex-offenders and people who are trying to get their life back together,” said Richard Sabb.

Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler toured the job training facility. He’s promoting the Second Chance Act of 2014, which would close some nonviolent criminal misdemeanor records from public access.

The pending Senate bill would allow shielding for 13 nonviolent misdemeanors, such as drug possession and trespassing. If the convicted person had no new offenses within five years after the sentence was completed, employers and colleges wouldn’t be able to look at these criminal records.

“We have a 46 percent recidivism rate in Maryland right now, which means in three years, folks who come out of jail are going to go back in,” he said.

“Every person who comes to the kitchen for training, every person has a chance to develop skills,” Neal said.

There are currently 144,000 people in Maryland’s criminal system.

“The knowledge gained through this program allows our graduates to find employment and take the first steps on a new path to their lives,” Neal said.

If passed, the act would apply to people who have satisfied all conditions of their sentencing, parole and probation.

The Second Chance Act is being heard in the House Judiciary Committee.

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