Occupational Licensing Requirements Inhibit Successful Re-entry into the Community

Steady work helps former offenders re-enter society after their sentences have been served.

Gainful employment has been shown to drive down recidivism rates, and steady employment creates a sense of purpose and contribution to the community. Employment is an important piece of the re-entry puzzle.

But there are factors outside the control of would-be employees that effect their ability to access certain jobs.

Many states utilize occupational licensing requirements that restrict access to jobs without the state’s “permission slip.”

The cost in time and money to obtain an occupational license limits those who are able to participate in the job field to just those who can afford it.

For example, the average license in Kansas costs $88 and requires 166 days of training. That license may not transfer over to another city or state, so moving around in Kansas or from out of state is that much harder.

Koch Industries’ Senior Vice President Mark Holden pointed out in a Wichita Eagle op-ed that “many basic jobs require more training than an emergency medical technician.” That’s significant training for jobs such as those in barber shops and cosmetology.

Occupational licensing takes a particularly harsh toll on those in low-income communities or those with criminal records. Many have left their offenses in the past, but are still plagued by the occupational restrictions that won’t allow them to fully move on.

In some states, a decades-old crime may prohibit you from obtaining a specific license. In others, licensing requirements may demand too much money or too much arbitrary training.

Whatever the case, licensing stands in the way of those who wish to work. Those obstacles affect the economy as well, preventing the creation of jobs and driving up the cost of goods. We all suffer from increased licensing requirements.

Former offenders who have paid their debt should face a friendly path into the workforce, one that encourages their participation and rewards their rehabilitation.

Doing away with bureaucratic and burdensome regulations is a step in that direction.

Learn more how getting rid of occupational licenses would help remove barriers to opportunity by reading Holden’s full op-ed in the Wichita Eagle.