On July 1st, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed a bill that will remove barriers for skilled workers to find steady employment.

As the press release says, this new bill, Senate Bill 637: 

Removes outdated licensing barriers so skilled workers with criminal records can get a second chance and start good careers.

‘Pennsylvania must be a place where hardworking people can put their skills to work,’ said Gov. Wolf. ‘Arbitrarily denying someone a job license because of outdated rules against criminal records is wrong. This new bipartisan law is a commonsense way to allow people to pursue the American dream and build a better life in Pennsylvania. It’s good for skilled workers, their employers and the economy for all of us.’ 

As an another article reports

[The] bill … overhauls the state’s outdated occupational licensing laws that previously denied residents the ability to obtain a state certification of license because of a prior or irrelevant criminal record. 

In addition, this law:

Will include a new process for evaluating license applicants and a guide to give individuals a preliminary decision if their conviction is likely to disqualify them for licensure so they don’t waste their time and money on training.

It also allows for restricted licenses for individuals training at taxpayer expense such as in state prisons to be able to practice a profession under supervision for one to two years even if they otherwise would be denied a license due to their record.  

This law is an important step towards occupations for many former convicts. Some prison programs have provided excellent opportunities for individuals to gain skills that they can use to find steady work after their release, but they are frequently blocked from that work due to occupational licensing laws which do not allow for criminal records even if the record is not at all related to the work that the individuals would be performing. 

The law still allows for applicants to be denied a license if their conviction is directly related to the profession they’re seeking to join or if their criminal conviction “poses a substantial risk to the health and safety of their clients or co-workers.” 

As Flood, a corrections success story himself said

There isn’t a free lunch here…. This is for folks who have done the work, obtained the credentials and schooling necessary in order to competently secure licensing and certification. These are folks who made mistakes, done what they needed to do and are asking for a hand up, not a hand out.

As Governor Wolf said: “It’s good for skilled workers. It’s good for their employers. It’s good for the economy. It’s good for all of us.”