Licensing Reform Bill aims to help ex-cons secure jobs
SPRINGFIELD -- A criminal background can be a huge obstacle to overcome in Illinois, where many of the state's occupations require a state license. An occupational license can be denied because of a criminal record, but this may soon change.
The General Assembly has approved the Occupational-Licensing Reform Bill (HB 5973) which will make it easier for people with a criminal record to get professional licenses in several fields so they can find jobs.
Under the current law, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation may deny licenses to anyone with a criminal record -- even if the offense has nothing to do with the desired occupation -- but the Occupational-Licensing Reform Bill would eliminate this obstacle for several professions in some cases.
“Right now, specifically with criminal records, the application could be denied,"Bryant Jackson-Green, a criminal justice policy analyst, told the Sangamon Sun."What the bill would do is only allow the application to be denied if the crime is a felony or is directly related to the occupation.”
Drug offenses would no longer be a barrier to getting a license.
About 30,000 people are released from Illinois prisons every year, and with a quarter of the occupations in Illinois requiring licenses, the bill could impact the recidivism rate, Jackson-Green said.
Without the ability to support themselves, almost half of released offenders commit additional crimes and are placed back in prison within three years, Jackson-Green said.
The bill would allow licenses for ex-offenders in seven fields: barbering, cosmetology, esthetics, hair braiding, nail technology, roofing and funeral services.
The idea behind the bill is to allow ex-offenders to take advantage of opportunities to support themselves in fast-growing fields by allowing them to get the licenses needed, so they don't end up back in prison.
“Even though this bill is a good first step, it's important to note it only covers seven occupations, and there are 118 professional licenses that can still be denied based on criminal backgrounds,” Jackson-Green said. “There's still a lot more work to do.”
Originally, real estate and accounting licenses also were included in the bill, but concerns were raised among leaders in those fields, so they were removed from the bill.
The bill is awaiting Gov. Bruce Rauner's signature.
The General Assembly is continuing to focus on this issue and is already working on a bill to address other occupations that require licenses. This legislation is expected to be introduced in the next session.
“The plan is for it to be drafted along the same lines,” Jackson-Green said.