Intent to Deny

Several years ago, one of our colleagues from another organization was reflecting
on his experiences working to pass legislation in the Illinois General Assembly.

He lives in Springfield, which helps to explain the following comment: "Sometimes
after the legislature has adjourned, I am so frustrated and angry that for
at least two weeks I can’t even stand to walk down the street and look at
the Capitol."

It is not difficult to relate to what he said. The legislative process is
difficult. One can work for months, even years, on something that seems hugely
important, only to see it dismissed for no obvious reason at the end of the
session.

But sometimes the opposite happens. This year PCG proposed, and the Illinois
General Assembly passed, a measure called "pre-training review."
We are grateful to be able to include this bill in our 2009
Legislative Summary
.

"Pre-training review" addresses the special situation of ex-offenders
who have been released from prison and want to enter a licensed profession.
It requires the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation
— the state licensing agency — to provide an advisory opinion
on whether individuals will be able to obtain a license if they successfully
complete a training program for the field they seek to enter.

My PCG colleague, Walter Boyd, and I started working on this topic after
we learned that ex-offenders seeking to become roofers, cosmetologists, or
barbers, for example, are screened through a process titled "intent to deny."
(This phrase is still contained in licensure requirements for ex-offenders,
despite our request to Department officials that they remove it.)

We found further that ex-offenders — and the workforce training staff
who assist them — were expected to make decisions concerning the investment
of time and tuition without knowing whether their "background" would
ban them from obtaining a license when they had completed the program.

Talk about a disincentive for people, often with minor offenses, who have
paid their debt to society and are trying to get back on their feet!

For three years, we petitioned the Department of Financial and Professional
Regulation and were told that change was simply too difficult. Therefore,
last fall, with help from the Public Defenders’ Office, we drafted legislation
that would accomplish our goal. This mandate has now been enacted into law,
and the Department will, over the next 180 days, promulgate the necessary
rules and regulations.

You are not likely to read about "pre-training review" in the Chicago
Tribune
or any other newspaper. But we believe it will make a real difference
in the lives of ex-offenders who are seeking to re-enter society.

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