MEDIA RELEASE: Bipartisan law expands employment opportunities for formerly incarcerated North Carolinians

SB 33 prohibits occupational licensing boards from automatically denying licensure based on a criminal record

RALEIGH (April 11, 2013) — Earlier this week, Gov. Pat McCrory signed a bill that will expand employment opportunities for North Carolinians with criminal histories by allowing them to contribute positively to their communities without unnecessary barriers to reentry.

Senate Bill 33 addresses the use of criminal history records by licensing boards by requiring occupational licensing boards to consider several aspects of an applicant’s record in deciding whether to issue a license to an individual. Such factors include how long ago the conviction occurred, the connection between the crime and the occupation, and evidence of rehabilitation.

“Where occupational licensing boards have the discretion to grant or deny licenses to applicants with criminal histories, they should not be able to have in place policies or practices that automatically deny licensure to anyone with a criminal record,” said Daniel Bowes, an attorney with the NC Justice Center. “Requiring an individualized assessment of an applicant and his or her record is a fair and balanced approach. It provides the applicant a chance to make a case for his or her licensure, while preserving the ability of the occupational licensing board to maintain the high standards of their occupation."

The North Carolina Justice Center initiated the bipartisan effort to sign SB 33 into law with an article published by the North Carolina Bar Association in early January. The Justice Center presented to the Joint Administrative Procedures Oversight Committee to identify the problem surrounding licensing boards and suggest legislation, which was passed intact. Rep. Tom Murry and Sen. Fletcher Hartsell, both members of the committee, introduced identical bills in the Senate and House, respectively. Hartsell’s bill passed the Senate before heading to the House floor, where Rep. Sarah Stevens introduced the bill on behalf of the Judiciary Committee.

“Rep. Stevens, Rep. Murry, and Sen. Hartsell worked with the Justice Center to address clumsy and overly broad barriers to reentry in North Carolina,” Bowes said. “Their work will help restore opportunities for North Carolinians across the state by allowing them to utilize their skills and contribute positively to their communities and North Carolina’s economy.”

FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT: Daniel Bowes, danielb@ncjustice.org, 919.861.2061; Jeff Shaw, Director of Communications, jeff@ncjustice.org, 503.551.3615 (cell).