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Occupational Licensing Requirements

Conservative Solutions


“This year, some 600,000 inmates will be released from prison back into society. We know from long experience that if they can’t find work, or a home, or help, they are much more likely to commit more crimes and return to prison…. America is the land of the second chance, and when the gates of the prison open, the path ahead should lead to a better life.” –President George W. Bush, 2004 State of the Union Address

There is a clear, positive correlation between unemployment and recidivism. When Ex-offenders are released to return to their normal lives, it can be extremely difficult to find work. Barriers that prevent them from finding a steady job include an employers’ hesitancy to hire someone with a criminal record and occupational licensing. Eventually, many of these ex-offenders become so discouraged from an inability to find work that they give up. Unemployment sharply raises the risk of recidivism, as unemployed ex-offenders often feel they have no choice but to turn back to a life of crime. Occupational licenses are typically regulated and enforced by the state, not the occupation, meaning that many of these demanding qualifications for licensing can be unrelated or unnecessary.

The heavy cost of obtaining a license coupled with prerequisite that the license seeker be debt-free punishes borrowers across the nation, including students and the formerly incarcerated. Almost 40 million people have student loans in America, and though they needed to borrow in order to further their education, the government later punishes them by taking away their ability to work without a costly and unnecessary license. These people can’t be expected to have the money to pay off their student debt so soon after graduating, just as ex-offenders can’t be expected to pay a court fee immediately following a sentence. It is unreasonable to assume that either of these groups of people could obtain enough money in such a short period of time. Preventing work because of debt only intensifies the inability to pay back the debt owed by increasing chances of unemployment. The government should not be given the power to stand in the way of everyday Americans trying to make a living. Occupational licensing gives the government an unreasonable amount of power and contributes to unemployment and recidivism—it must be done away with.

Conservative Solutions

  • Individual states adopt policies eliminating occupational licenses for jobs with no relation to the original offense
  • Establish state programs that incentivize employers to hire ex-offenders
  • Support prison programs that allow offenders to obtain occupational licenses behind bars in preparation for their release.

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