Dan King
Dan King · May 8, 2024

ARLINGTON, Va.—Today, the Institute for Justice (IJ) applauded the Colorado General Assembly for passing HB 24-1004, which will make it easier for individuals with a criminal record to find gainful employment. IJ, whose activists worked to support the bill, now encourages Gov. Jared Polis to sign it into law. 

“Finding meaningful employment is one of the key factors to ensuring formerly incarcerated people don’t reoffend,” said IJ Assistant Director of Activism Special Projects Jennifer McDonald. “This bill will help returning citizens find meaningful work, support families, increase public safety, and encourage entrepreneurship.” 

HB 24-1004 prevents licensing boards from considering an applicant’s criminal record unless their record “directly relates” to their ability to safely perform the duties of the job. In addition, the bill creates a process for people with criminal records to petition licensing boards to determine whether their record is disqualifying, before spending the time and money training for the license; requires licensing boards to give individualized consideration of an applicant with a criminal record, including evidence of rehabilitation work; and eliminates the use of vague terms like “good moral character” as a rationale for denying an occupational license. 

If the bill is signed into law, Colorado would join a growing number of states recognizing the benefits of making it easier for people with criminal records to find work. In total, 21 states allow returning citizens to petition a licensing board at any time, 19 states prevent licensing boards from denying returning citizens a license unless their criminal records are “directly related” to the license, and 39 states have eliminated or eased licensing barriers for people with criminal records since 2015. 

“Returning citizens should not continue to be punished after they’ve served their time. This is not a red state or blue state issue,” said IJ Activism Assistant Sydney Travis. “Across the country, bipartisan groups of lawmakers are realizing the importance of making it easier for individuals with a criminal record to find work so they can get back on their feet and not return to a life of crime.” 

IJ has fought for the right of returning citizens to earn an honest living throughout the country. In Virginia, IJ is challenging a law that prevents anyone charged with one of 176 “barrier crimes” from ever working in a “direct care” position, on behalf of a woman who struggled with drug addiction and now wants to work as a substance abuse counselor. Last December, following an IJ lawsuit, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) agreed to amend its “Business Integrity Rule” to no longer permanently punish individuals charged with drug crimes. And last September, following another IJ lawsuit, a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) judge ruled that a Tennessee radio station should not have its license stripped over its owner’s decades-old tax offense, for which he already did his probation and paid back taxes.