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State Occupational Licensing Reforms for Workers with Criminal Records

Today, one out of every five Americans needs a license to work while 1 in 3 American adults has a criminal record. Since 2015, 34 states and Washington, D.C. have reformed their occupational licensing laws to make it easier for ex-offenders to find work in state-licensed fields:

  1. Arizona (enacted reforms in 2018 and 2019)
  2. Arkansas
  3. California (enacted two reforms in 2018)
  4. Colorado
  5. Connecticut 
  6. Delaware
  7. Florida
  8. Georgia
  9. Idaho
  10. Illinois (enacted several reforms in 2016 and 2017)
  11. Indiana
  12. Iowa (enacted reforms in 2019 and 2020)
  13. Kansas
  14. Kentucky
  15. Louisiana 
  16. Massachusetts
  17. Maryland (enacted reforms in 2018 and 2019)
  18. Michigan
  19. Mississippi
  20. Missouri
  21. Nebraska
  22. New Hampshire
  23. New York 
  24. North Carolina
  25. Ohio (enacted reforms in 2019 and 2021)
  26. Oklahoma (enacted reforms in 2015 and 2019)
  27. Pennsylvania
  28. Tennessee (enacted reforms in 2016 and 2018)
  29. Texas (enacted several reforms in 2019)
  30. Utah (enacted reforms in 2019 and 2020)
  31. West Virginia (enacted reforms in 2019 and 2020)
  32. Wisconsin
  33. Wyoming
  34. Rhode Island

Seventeen states, plus Washington, D.C., allow ex-offenders to petition a licensing board at any time, including before enrolling in any required training, to determine if their record would be disqualifying:

  1. Arizona
  2. Arkansas
  3. Idaho
  4. Indiana
  5. Iowa
  6. Mississippi 
  7. Missouri
  8. Nebraska
  9. New Hampshire
  10. North Carolina
  11. Ohio
  12. Oklahoma
  13. Tennessee
  14. Texas
  15. Utah
  16. West Virginia 
  17. Wisconsin

Sixteen states generally prevent licensing boards from using vague standards like “good moral character” or “moral turpitude” to deny licenses for ex-offenders:

  1. Arkansas
  2. California
  3. Idaho
  4. Illinois
  5. Indiana
  6. Iowa
  7. Kansas
  8. Kentucky
  9. Minnesota
  10. Mississippi 
  11. New York
  12. North Carolina
  13. Ohio
  14. Pennsylvania
  15. Washington
  16. West Virginia

Likewise, five states—Delaware, Missouri, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming, as well as the District of Columbia—removed moral character requirements from many of their licenses but did not enact an overarching ban.

Eighteen states and Washington, D.C. ban boards from considering arrests that did not result in a conviction:

  1. Arkansas
  2. California
  3. Colorado
  4. Connecticut
  5. Illinois
  6. Indiana
  7. Iowa
  8. Kansas
  9. Michigan
  10. Minnesota
  11. New Hampshire
  12. New Mexico
  13. New York
  14. Ohio
  15. Rhode Island
  16. Texas
  17. Utah
  18. Wisconsin

Ten states, plus Washington, D.C. have instituted new reporting requirements:

  1. Arizona
  2. California
  3. Florida
  4. Illinois
  5. Maryland
  6. New Hampshire
  7. North Carolina
  8. Ohio
  9. Pennsylvania
  10. Rhode Island

Eighteen states and the District of Columbia block licensing boards from denying ex-offenders a license to work, unless the board determines that the applicant’s criminal record is “directly related” to the license sought:

  1. Colorado
  2. Florida
  3. Georgia
  4. Illinois
  5. Indiana
  6. Iowa
  7. Kansas
  8. Kentucky
  9. Michigan
  10. Minnesota
  11. Mississippi
  12. New Hampshire
  13. New Mexico
  14. North Dakota
  15. Ohio
  16. Tennessee
  17. Washington
  18. Wyoming

 

For more information on individual state laws, read IJ’s Barred from Working: A Nationwide Study of Occupational Licensing Barriers for Ex-Offenders.

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