States Reconsidering Allowing People with a Criminal Record to Obtain Occupational Licenses
Date:  03-17-2017

In Illinois alone, people with a felony conviction must, or can be, denied 118 professional, occupational or business licenses
From Pew Charitable Trusts:

Robert Lewis didn’t think it would be hard to get a job selling insurance. He was a car salesman for decades and sold insurance for a while after graduating from college. But in Lewis’ home state of Illinois, felons can’t get a license to sell insurance. And in 1985, Lewis was arrested for felony theft. Lewis says he long ago kicked the drug habit that contributed to his arrest, and these days the 62-year-old can often be found running around after his grandkids.

“I was a whole other person back then,” Lewis said of his Reagan-era brush with the law. But the criminal record derailed his recent job application. Illinois bans some ex-offenders from getting many kinds of occupational licenses. Residents with felony convictions can’t be riverboat owners or horse meat processors. A criminal record may disqualify acupuncturists, auctioneers, boxing referees, dance hall operators, interior designers and massage therapists.

In all, 118 professional, occupational and business licenses must or may be denied to felons, according to a 2012 report from the state General Assembly’s nonpartisan research unit.

Now Illinois is among a handful of states reconsidering their licensing rules and giving men and women like Lewis a chance. Although the change can make professional associations squeamish, it’s drawing support across the political spectrum as lawmakers try to get more people with criminal records into jobs. Read more here.