The United States made a big “First STEP” on criminal justice reform, passing landmark legislation in late 2018. There is momentum on these issues, and states should take advantage.

In New Jersey, not only is there asset forfeiture reform on the table, but also legislation that would help former offenders navigate burdensome occupational licensing requirements.

When licensing rules don’t consider whether someone’s conviction is directly related to the profession they’re pursuing, or boards make it hard to figure out whether a conviction is disqualifying, there are unnecessary burdens placed between people leaving prison and jobs.

Perhaps the most important step in becoming a productive member of society is finding a job. It is critical to reducing the likelihood someone will reoffend.
New Jersey Senate Bill 1589, originally introduced in 2018 by primary sponsors Troy Singleton and Nia H. Gill, seeks to correct this. The bill, if passed, would set standards for professional and occupational licensing boards in their consideration of candidates with a criminal history.   

Nothing is currently stopping New Jersey licensing boards from revoking, or withholding, licenses from those with criminal histories unrelated to the occupation which they are seeking to enter. Without S1589, the nature and severity of one’s offense, and any evidence of one’s rehabilitation efforts would continue to go unconsidered by licensing boards as well.

S1589 had an important hearing on January 17, 2019 and made it out of the Commerce Committee after nearly a year. The bill was then referred to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.

S1589 would remove some of the most cumbersome barriers for individuals who want to both better themselves and contribute to their communities, while ensuring that where appropriate, a conviction will still rule someone out of a profession.