He's a Jolly Good Felon


Tim Vanderpool has a depressing story about the fates of felons who try and rebuild their lives by setting out on new careers.

Some students nearly have their diploma in hand before they learn of their newest, sometimes insurmountable hurdle.

Michele Convie can tell you how that feels. She did time for two smallish pot busts, but nearly two decades later–and after earning a degree from Pima Community College–she faced a bureaucratic jungle in getting security clearance as a social worker. When ex-felons apply for such clearance, processed through the Arizona Department of Public Safety, "they deny you immediately," she says, "without telling you how to appeal."

According to Convie, the student's history is scrutinized for every infraction, right down to the last traffic ticket. Even then, they can be denied–laying waste to all their college tuition and hard work.

Sure, fine, but how does that affect you?

There's now an estimated 10 percent shortage of nurses, and by the year 2020, that number is expected to jump to 30 percent.

But according to state licensing protocols, "the Board of Nursing shall not grant a license, or shall revoke a license if previously granted, or decline to renew the license of an applicant who has one or more felony convictions and who has not received an absolute discharge from the sentences for all felony convictions five or more years before the date of filing an application."

And truck drivers? The American Trucking Association estimates that the industry is currently short about 20,000 drivers–a number that could rise to 110,000 over the next few years. Still, the Arizona Motor Vehicle Division won't issue a license to anyone convicted of a DUI with a blood-alcohol level higher than 0.04 in the past year.

For a less sympathetic take on the issue, check out Walter Olson's 1999 piece on felon protection.