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Many occupational licensing laws prevent ex-offenders from job opportunities that would support their transition back into work and society. Some laws completely block ex-offenders from obtaining licenses. Even if ex-offenders aren’t blocked, their prospects of receiving a license are often uncertain because of morality clauses that either bar ex-offenders from an occupation entirely or force the ex-offender to prove that past crimes will not be a risk to customers in the future. The provisions lead to fewer economic opportunities for ex-offenders and greater recidivism, thus undermining the broader goal of public safety.
The State Solution
To correct these handicaps, states can adopt the Institute for Justice’s Collateral Consequences in Occupational Licensing Act.
The model bill achieves three outcomes:
- It allows a former offender to petition a licensing board for a determination on whether the offender will be prevented from gaining a license.
- It limits disqualifications for getting a license to crimes directly related to the license.
- It puts the burden on the state to prove the former offender should be prohibited from getting a license.
Why This Matters
The best way for former offenders to reintegrate into society is to find a job. However, the most significant areas of job loss from the pandemic recession are concentrated in working-class occupations such as restaurants, travel and leisure, and retail. The unequal distribution of job losses diminishes entry job opportunities for former offenders and worsens their long-term economic prospects, thus increasing the likelihood of economic despair, recidivism, and a cycle of criminality.
States should minimize the red tape faced by former offenders to enter licensed occupations. Every policy lever needs to be pulled to restore economic opportunity for those who are least fortune and those who were most economically impacted by the pandemic.
What States Should Do Next
States should enact the Institute for Justice’s model legislation to cut the red tape that stands between ex-offenders and life-changing economic opportunities.
Collateral Consequences in Occupational Licensing Act (Institute for Justice)