Delaware makes it easier for people with criminal records to get professional licenses

State Rep. Melissa Minor-Brown speaks at a bill signing ceremony at Delaware Technical Community College’s Innovation and Technology Center in New Castle. (Courtesy of Gov. Carney staff)

State Rep. Melissa Minor-Brown speaks at a bill signing ceremony at Delaware Technical Community College’s Innovation and Technology Center in New Castle. (Courtesy of Gov. Carney staff)

Delaware has taken a number of steps this year to make it easier for former inmates to find work after they’ve been released from prison. The latest package of bills removes some of the roadblocks for workers trying to find jobs as plumbers, HVAC technicians and other vocations.

Until this week, felons who wanted to get a license to install or repair air conditioning units or get work as a plumber or electrical inspector had to wait for five years after a conviction for a crime against a person. After that five-year waiting period, those former inmates could apply to a state board to get their license to work in the field. 

Legislation signed this week by Governor John Carney, reduces the waiting period before an inmate can apply to three years. 

State Rep. Melissa Minor-Brown sponsored the changes that she says are very important in the effort to reduce recidivism. “To believe that people can actually have second chances is so important. This legislation breaks down barriers and creates a pathway to sustainability,” she said. 

She added the bills will help show those who have been through the state’s prison system that they are greater than their biggest mistake. 

The bills are part of a package of criminal justice reform legislation backed by state Attorney General Kathy Jennings. “A good job with a fair wage is a very powerful reentry tool,” Jennings said. “Part of our job as policymakers and elected leaders is to help ensure that people who come out of prison stay out of prison. That’s good criminal justice policy, it’s good economic policy, and it’s very good moral policy.”

Similar changes are being made for former inmates trying to get work as massage therapists. The massage and bodywork license process is a bit more stringent for inmates convicted of a felony sexual offense. The licensing board will retain its discretion to deny former inmates accused of sexual crimes a license to work in the massage industry.

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