Press Release

PRESS RELEASE: New Report Examines the Overlap Between Occupational Licensing and Criminal Justice


DATE: October 2, 2023 



Amanda Kieffer, Communications Director, Cardinal Institute for WV Policy

PHONE: (304)-541-9551| EMAIL: [email protected]


New Report Examines the Overlap Between Occupational Licensing and Criminal Justice


Charleston, W. Va. — The Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy, in partnership with the Knee Center for the Study of Occupational Regulation, released a new policy report examining current occupational licensing laws in West Virginia and the collateral consequences they impose on individuals with criminal records who aim to reenter the workforce.

Nationally, nearly 22% of all workers need a license for their job. That number is 24% in West Virginia. Additionally, “recidivism increased over 9% in states with more burdensome licensing laws, while recidivism declined by 4% in states with lower licensing burdens.”

This new policy report outlines what West Virginia has done well in reforming occupational licensing laws and mitigating their collateral consequences. Previously in 2019 and 2020, West Virginia updated state code to prevent licensing boards from disqualifying individuals based on their criminal convictions “unless that conviction is for a crime that bears a rational nexus to the occupation requiring licensure.”

However, this new policy report highlights additional ways state lawmakers could build upon prior efforts to continue improving outcomes for West Virginia workers relative to their counterparts in neighboring states. Raising the standard from “rational nexus” to “directly related” is just one way this new policy report suggests West Virginia could further reduce barriers to work.

“West Virginia has long suffered from a struggling economy and low labor force participation rates. Part of that blame lies at the feet of burdensome regulations that make it difficult for residents to engage in work without a license. This is even more true when those residents have a criminal history,” said Jessi Troyan, the Director of Policy & Research for the Cardinal Institute. “Lawmakers have improved conditions with reforms in 2019 and 2020, but the Mountain State cannot settle for good enough when further responsible reforms are possible.”



Founded in 2014, The Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy, Inc. is a 501c(3) non-profit dedicated to research, develop, and communicate effective free market public policies for West Virginia.