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,” individuals can be denied a license to work simply because of their criminal record.

Today, roughly 1 in 3 adult Americans has a criminal record of some kind, while nearly 1 in 5 needs 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 clauses that permanently bar 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.

PC: Fresh Start Intake

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