Nearly one in four U.S. jobs require a government-issued license, but, for individuals with a criminal record, state regulations are often designed to discourage them from seeking jobs in licensed fields or prevent them from obtaining such licenses altogether.
”Fair Chance Licensing Project: States Expand Access to In-Demand Jobs,” a recent research project sponsored by the Council of State Governments Justice Center, studies the difficulty that this population faces when it comes to securing jobs that require a government license. Unfortunately, these jobs tend to be critical occupations that provide a diverse range of essential services to the community, from barbering and landscaping to realty and insurance sales to roles throughout the health care industry.
The good news is, in some states, a reduction to these barriers is in the works, as certain legislatures vote to advance fair chance licensing policies. The CSG’s “Fair Chance Licensing Project” found that, in 2021, state legislatures in Arizona, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington and D.C, adopted laws that promote best practices to expand licensing opportunities for people with criminal histories, and so far, across the country, at least 44 states have adopted fair chance licensing legislation to reduce barriers to licensure.
To illustrate the current state of legislation across the country, project researchers created 14 state-by-state licensing maps with information showing the strategies states are adopting to advance fair chance licensing. The project also features a testimonial from Ohio State Representative Kyle Koehle, who championed the state’s Fresh Start Act in 2021, one of most robust fair chance licensing laws in the country, along with firsthand accounts from two individuals, Nick Aponte and Lester Young, who describe being prevented from obtaining occupational licenses due to their records.
Implementing legislative changes and reforming existing regulations surrounding barriers to government licensure can allow states to grow their workforce while allowing criminal record-holders to contribute to their communities in a positive way. Obtaining an occupational license can also lead these individuals to higher-paying jobs and reduce their chance of recidivism.
GEO Reentry Services’ evidence-based reentry programs across the country serve to further such broad employment-related goals by providing local adult probationers, parolees and pretrial defendants with a range of job development, placement and retention services. These reentry programs also guide program participants to local resources to help them obtain critical documents.
Specific employment services at GEO Reentry programs include on-site employment readiness group sessions, access to computer-based career skills programming, and job and resource fairs, accompanied by access to educational and vocational services including high school equivalency preparation, education for various industries and trades, assistance with applications for colleges, grants and trade/technical schools, and more.
In addition, GEO Reentry centers regularly host presentations by local organizations designed to facilitate participant development. At these “Community Connections” events, representatives from local groups and businesses inform participants about employment-related, social service, and other resources available in the community.
Learn more about the entire range of GEO Reentry programming here.