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Local Editorials

What We Think: Law should help deserving felons get jobs

People with long-ago felonies on their records may now seek waivers from the state so they can obtain licenses to work in the health care field in Illinois. We hope the new law helps to reduce recidivism and therefore improve public safety.

Late last month, Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a bill that, his office says, will “give former offenders a brighter future.”

The legislation in question will allow people with certain forcible felony convictions to apply for waivers so they can qualify for necessary state licenses that govern certain health care careers.

The impetus for the bill came from people who were convicted of felonies at younger ages, paid their debt to society, and wanted to pursue positive paths in their lives by learning skills and seeking employment in those fields.

However, before the new law took effect, people who wanted to work in health care were restricted from qualifying for the necessary state licenses.

Now, that former lifelong restriction can be lifted – with a few exceptions. The ex-offenders need to petition the state Department of Financial and Professional Regulation to seek the necessary waivers, after a post-conviction waiting period.

It is hoped that more felons who want to set their lives straight will now be able to do so, which should help to reduce recidivism.

“Finding and keeping a job is the best antidote to going back to prison, and this new law will make it easier to do just that,” Rauner said.

The state’s acting prisons chief, John Baldwin, concurs.

“This bill will allow offenders who have completed their sentence and clearly demonstrated their commitment to making a positive contribution to Illinois to work in an area of study that they are trained and licensed in,” Baldwin said.

The agency in charge of licensure, the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, will now “have the flexibility to consider the totality of applicants’ qualifications and experiences, not ignoring their criminal background but balancing it with evidence of their rehabilitation,” Bryan Schneider, agency chief, said.

We hope the law, Senate Bill 42, works as intended by its sponsors and supporters.

We also urge state officials to give a look-see at other careers licensed by the state to see whether the same lifting of restrictions for felons might be beneficial.

The state regulates numerous professions – more than 125, by our count. Among the higher-tier professions are architects, funeral directors and embalmers, real estate, nursing, physicians and veterinarians.

Regulation of those jobs is understandable.

But we wonder whether other professions, such as hair braiders, nail technicians, canine handlers and cosmetologists, need such strict regulation.

Be that as it may, we wish good luck to those who will benefit from the loosening of the state’s licensing apparatus.

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