A job is one of the best ways for people with criminal records not to re-offend. But strict occupational licensing requirements make it harder for people with criminal records to find work, thwarting their chances of successful reentry. Along with other “collateral consequences,” like losing the right to vote or the ability to receive government assistance, individuals can be denied a license to work simply because of their criminal record.
Today, roughly 1 in 3 Americans has a criminal record of some kind, while nearly 1 in 5 need a license to work. Thanks to the dramatic growth in both mass incarceration and occupational licensing, millions of Americans with criminal records are barred from working in the career path of their choice. Many licensing laws have morality clauses that bar automatically and permanently ex-offenders from working without any individualized review or require the ex-offender to prove a negative—that the ex-offender’s past crimes will not cause them to harm customers in the future.
To ensure people with criminal records can have a fresh start, the Institute for Justice brings a variety of legal challenges and legislative efforts against harmful and needlessly restrictive licensing laws. As the nation’s leading experts in the collateral consequences of occupational licensing, IJ has helped secure reforms in nearly 20 states.
For too long, collateral consequences have imposed a “civil death” on ex-offenders. Protecting their right to earn an honest living would go far in granting them a second chance at life.
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Feds threaten to end only Black radio station in Knoxville over owner’s personal tax conviction
Joe Armstrong brought Black community focused radio back on the air in Knoxville, Tennessee. Now he's fighting the FCC for his license, not for anything he put out over the air, but for an old personal tax conviction.