Occupational Licensing

Pennsylvania Is the Latest State To Loosen Occupational Licensing Rules for Individuals With Criminal Records

Finding a steady job is the best way to keep a person from going back to prison or jail. These changes make a lot of sense.


More than two dozen licensing boards in Pennsylvania will no longer be able to use vague "good character" provisions to block individuals with criminal records from getting permission to work in the state thanks to sweeping occupational licensing reforms signed into law last week by Gov. Tom Wolf (D).

The reforms will provide new economic opportunities for Pennsylvanians who have previously been convicted of a crime. Those individuals will now be able to pursue work as barbers, cosmetologists, accountants, and various other fields.

"Arbitrarily denying someone a job license because of outdated rules against
criminal records is wrong," Wolf said in a statement. He said the bill would benefit "skilled workers, their employers, and the economy for all of us."

The bill cleared the Republican-controlled state legislature with bipartisan support—yet another indication that licensing reform is an area of bipartisan agreement in a political environment where few good things can be described that way.

The new Pennsylvania law will ban 29 licensing boards from using broad and vague language to effectively prohibit anyone with a criminal history from obtaining a license.

"They can be disqualified from earning licenses in specific occupations even if their original charge had no relation to the license," says Jessica Barnett, a senior policy analyst with the Commonwealth Foundation, a free market think tank. "And many are barred from obtaining a license even after taking the opportunity to be trained while in prison."

Now, each board will have to draw up a list of specific offenses that will be considered disqualifying. That will allow licensing boards to, for example, keep people with a history of violent crimes from working in certain fields, while ensuring that a years-old nonviolent drug offense doesn't make it impossible for someone to find a good job. Licensing boards will also be prohibited from rejecting an applicant due to juvenile or expunged criminal records.

Pennsylvania joins more than a dozen other states that have passed similar laws in recent years. While they are primarily economic measures aimed at sweeping aside unnecessary and onerous licensing rules, there's also an element of criminal justice reform embedded in these licensing reforms. About 600,000 Americans are released from prison every year, and research shows that employment is the best indicator of whether they will end up back behind bars. In states with stricter licensing laws, recidivism rates are unsurprisingly higher.

According to research from The Pew Center for the States, reducing recidivism by as little as 10 percent could reduce state correctional budgets by an average of $15 million annually. And a 2011 study by the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia found in 2011 that securing jobs for only 100 formerly incarcerated people in the City of Brotherly Love would net $55 million in lifetime earnings and more than $2 million in future tax revenues while saving at least that much annually by keeping those same people out of the criminal justice system.

Pennsylvania's reforms are, as Wolf says, a win-win-win scenario.

NEXT: As COVID-19 Cases Surge, Daily Deaths and the Case Fatality Rate Continue To Fall

Occupational Licensing Pennsylvania Jobs Criminal Justice Criminal Record

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

Please to post comments

13 responses to “Pennsylvania Is the Latest State To Loosen Occupational Licensing Rules for Individuals With Criminal Records

  1. >Pennsylvania’s reforms are, as Wolf says, a win-win-win scenario.
    The only losers are bad businessmen who don’t want competition and occupational licensing boards.
    I couldn’t think of better groups of people to lose.

    1. “I couldn’t think of better groups of people to lose.”


      Everyone in Washington DC?

      1. My Boy pal makes $seventy five/hour on net. he has been job less for six months.VSe However he earns$16453 genuinely working at the internet for some hours.

        Immediately join from the source……► Click Here

    2. I make a big amount online work . How ??? Just u can done also with this site and u can do it Easily 2 step one is open link next is Click on Tech so u can done Easily now u can do it also here….Click For Full Details.

    3. Hi gyes..Making money online more than $15k just by doing simple work from home. I have received $18376 last month. Its an easy and simple job to do and its earnings are much better than regular office job and even a little child can do this and earns money. Everybody must try this job by just use the info on this page.  ….. Read more  

  2. “The bill cleared the Democratic-controlled state House”

    Yikes! No! The PA House is GOP controlled for the past 10 years. 110-83 seat margin.

    1. 110-93, sorry

  3. I can’t speak for elsewhere, but some areas of Texas are having a hard time finding water workers. You need a water or wastewater license to work with potable or wastewater. It’s easy to get, one 3-day class and pass a test, and since no one wants to dig ditches or work with sewage, and it doesn’t deal with money, it should be a great job for ex-cons. However, you cannot get the license if you have a criminal record. Some rural areas have no one willing to work that doesn’t have a drug record.

    1. And you have to wonder how many of those denied such opportunity because of some witless weed conviction.

  4. I don’t have anywhere near that clout as these ppl but I’m even getting flack from Google games for spreading Infowars links on their stupid games world chat lines… whatever…? Click For Full Detail.

  5. My last month’s online job to earn extra dollars every month just by doing work for maximum 2 to 3 hrs a day. I have. joined this job about 3 months ago and in my first month i have made $12k+ easily without any special online experience. Everybody on this earth can get this job today and start making cash online by just follow details on this website……… SeeMore here

  6. Makes sense.
    Why would anyone need a license to rob a bank?

  7. it would not be bad at all to accept some wisdom of the anti-immigration ethno-state called Wakanda. The basic wisdom consists of knowledge that migrants brought their problems with them. No hatred was left behind. No wrong was forgiven or even forgotten.HEREClick For Full Details.

Comments are closed.