The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation is encouraging individuals with prior convictions to apply for professional occupational licenses.
The department recently published a report to prove there is a path to licenses for people with past convictions.
Sharone Mitchell Jr., deputy director at Illinois Justice Project, said he supports the report because the state has a responsibility to conduct outreach and dispel the perception that people with criminal records cannot get licenses.
Citing the report from the IDFPR, Mitchell said less than 1 percent of eligible license applicants are denied because of past convictions.
“Despite the fact that you have 4.1 million Illinoisans with criminal records, you only have about 1.2 percent of people who are actually applying with those records,” Mitchell said. “That community feels like ‘I can’t get these jobs, so I’m not goiing apply.’”
Mitchell adds that the length of the process to get a license deters people with criminal records.
“Lots of people actually pull out of the process because of the length of the process,” Mitchell said. “When the question is asked if you have a criminal record, the process takes a very long time; you may get a letter asking you about your background.”
Mitchell said the IDFPR is going in the right direction in releasing the report and encouraging more individuals to apply for licenses.
“Let’s take that next step in letting the public know,” Mitchell said. “There is more hard work to be done.”
The Illinois Justice Project works with various organizations to educate the public, but the government has to play a big role to help achieve the goal, he said.
“If we’re just relying on community organizations to get the word out, we’re not going to be successful,” Mitchell said. “The government is larger than any combination of community-based organizations. They have the most contact with citizens.”