A job is one of the best ways for people with criminal records not to re-offend. But many occupational licensing laws block or burden ex-offenders. Many licensing laws have morality clauses that (1) bar automatically and permanently ex-offenders from working without any individualized review or (2) require the ex-offender to prove a negative—that the ex-offender’s past crimes will not cause him to harm customers in the future.
Such provisions ironically may decrease public safety. States with prohibitions and high burdens on entry have increasing criminal recidivism. Conversely, states that have no bars and low burdens have seen declines in recidivism, according to Professor Stephen Slivinski’s landmark study Turning Shackles into Bootstraps.
To increase public safety and opportunities for ex-offenders, IJ’s Collateral Consequences in Occupational Licensing Act (CCOLA) has the following provisions:
- It allows an ex-offender to petition a licensing board at any time—including before investing in training—for a determination that the ex-offender will not be disqualified from gaining a license because of his criminal record;
- It limits disqualifications to convictions directly related to the license; and
- It places the burden on the state to prove the ex-offender should be disqualified.
America is the land of second chances. When prison gates open, there is little downside to public safety and great upside for ex-offenders to ensure that the path ahead leads to a better life.
For more information about how states use criminal records to regulate entry, see the 50-state chart on licensing and employment at the Restoration of Rights Project, and IJ’s report Barred from Working: A Nationwide Study of Occupational Licensing Barriers for Ex-Offenders.