Licensing laws block many ex-felons from employment

Stable, remunerative, employment is one key factor that helps people leaving prison from re-offending. Yet many people, including registered sex offenders, are prevented from certain jobs due to state laws that prevent ex-felons from obtaining occupational licenses.

Eric Boehm writes about the topic in a report for Reason, including how some legislators and organizations are working to change the laws that can prevent people from getting back on their feet, even many years after they have been released from prison.

Reformers say there are some circumstances where there are genuine health and safety reasons to deny a license to an ex-convict. “There is nothing wrong with developing laws and regulations that directly address the issue of safety,” says Beth Johnson, director of legal programs at Cabrini Green Legal Aid, a Chicago-based nonprofit that helps individuals with criminal records find jobs and support services. Someone convicted of embezzlement reasonably can be blocked from becoming a licensed accountant, Johnson says, just like someone with a record of DUI could be stopped from becoming a truck driver.

But why should an embezzlement conviction prevent you from becoming a truck driver, and why should a DUI stop someone from becoming an accountant? “Those lifetime barriers need to have that direct nexus, where the conviction would cause harm to those we are trying to protect,” says Johnson.

Read more at Reason.

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