Want to Reduce Crime? Allow Non-violent Ex-cons to Get a Job.

 

shutterstock_145411027Want to be a florist in Louisiana? You need government approval. In four other states, you need a license before you can be an interior decorator. Tennessee requires 70 days  training, a $140 fee, and two exams before allowing anyone to be a shampooer. I’m unclear how more than two months of class work is needed to lather/rinse/repeat, but government knows best.

All 50 states require millions of would-be workers to go through government-sanctioned professional boards before they can ply their trade. Now this makes sense for a CPA or a lawyer, but do bureaucrats really need to regulate upholsterers, packagers, and gas pumpers? Stephen Slivinski, an economist and researcher at Arizona State University, conducted a first-of-its-kind study on how these boards burden one group more than others. And when they make this group suffer, crime surges. I wrote about the study in this weekend’s Arizona Republic:

Employers often frown on anyone with even a non-violent criminal record, despite having the skills and education required for the job. Where this tendency is most apparent is the byzantine system of professional licenses and certifications required by many states…

These boards often set arbitrary, unnecessary requirements. It’s nice that reformers help prisoners earn GEDs and job training, but how does that help if their state board requires long work experience and a higher education level than is available in their time behind bars?

Worse still, many states have “good character” provisions that prohibit ex-prisoners from ever receiving a license. Other states allow licensing boards to reject applicants at their discretion; if the Louisiana Horticulture Commission doesn’t care for ex-cons, maybe they won’t let one become a retail florist. After all, maybe an unlicensed flower arranger will only use 11 roses instead of a dozen.

Stephen Slivinski, an economist and senior research fellow at Arizona State University’s Center for the Study of Economic Liberty, has studied this issue in detail. He compared states’ three-year recidivism rates for new crimes to their occupational licensing burdens. After crunching the numbers, he found that states with the heaviest occupational licensing burdens saw an average increase in the recidivism rate of more than 9 percent. Meanwhile, the states with the lowest burdens saw an average decline in that recidivism rate of almost 2.5 percent.

You can read the whole thing here. It’s great that criminal justice reformers are bringing education and job training behind bars, especially to non-violent offenders. But if the same government won’t let them get a job after release, what’s the point?

There are 79 comments.

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  1. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Good question and agreed.

    • #1
  2. Brian Wyneken Member
    Brian Wyneken
    @BrianWyneken

    People respond to incentives . . . . isn’t that the first law? Perpetual punishment accordingly destroys  the potential in this rule.

    Having recently gone through a 1.5 year job search (age and “certifications” being the obstacles) I’m humbled and more inclined to forgive the past of these transgressors. Thanks for posting this – it’s so important for so many lives.

    • #2
  3. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    I have two friends who served their time. Both are now Christian ministers. At least some churches don’t discriminate.

    • #3
  4. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    I agree completely.

    It’s local crony capitalism at its most destructive.

    If there’s a “what shall we do about this” response to your column, I hope you’ll let us know.

    A psychiatrist wrote a column for the Boston Globe years ago about a ex-con she was treating for depression because he couldn’t find work. He was walking around Boston with a jug of bleach in hand, just waiting for the moment when he couldn’t take it anymore. A very sad story.

     

    • #4
  5. TKC1101 Inactive
    TKC1101
    @TKC1101

    Spot on Jon. My son works with hallway house felons by managing their house. I work with small businesses to try and place them in jobs with a future, usually machine operators, welders and such.

    There are never enough openings, and construction is constrained by illegals and the economy. We have to become a nation of makers again not just for the felons, but to keep kids from becoming felons.

    A constitutional republic cannot sustain itself with most of it’s citizens horribly underemployed. You  will get something much worse.

    I wish I could find the idiot that decided the USA should become a ‘service economy’.

    • #5
  6. Arthur Beare Member
    Arthur Beare
    @ArthurBeare

    I agree whole-heartedly.  Let the prospective employer make the determination as to whether the specific individual is trustworthy enough for the position on offer.

    And a lot of the training/education requirements you mention earlier in the OP are just the guild protecting its current members.

    And an irresistible bit of snark:  Most states prevent convicted felons from voting; few prevent them from holding public office.

    • #6
  7. Douglas Inactive
    Douglas
    @Douglas

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: Tennessee requires 70 days training, a $140 fee, and two exams before allowing anyone to be a shampooer. I’m unclear how more than two months of class work is needed to lather/rinse/repeat, but government knows best.

    My theory on this is that some time in the past, some state senator’s wife or daughter went in for a do at their local rural “beauty shop” (probably operated out of someone’s house) and came out with pink hair or something. “This is an outrage! This can never happen again!” then probably became a state mandate.

    • #7
  8. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    What do you propose to do about it? If you propose to get active in your own state to reform these laws, I’m with you. But if you propose to use the heavy hand of the federal government to remove the rights of the states to handle these matters on their own, I’m dead set against it.

    There is a certain type of bad Republican that is always pushing to remove the states’ ability to handle their own affairs, e.g. in deciding whether or not fracking is OK within its state, or whether foods should require labeling of GMOs.

    Removing the crazy patchwork of state and local regulations in favor of uniform national regulation is what has gotten us into a lot of our current messes, and is part of the program that led to Donald Trump.

    • #8
  9. Joseph Stanko Coolidge
    Joseph Stanko
    @JosephStanko

    TKC1101: I wish I could find the idiot that decided the USA should become a ‘service economy’.

    I believe that idiot was one Mr. Adam Smith, or rather his invisible hand.

    Since we don’t have a centrally planned economy, no one can decree how jobs should be allocated between the manufacturing, service, and other sectors of the economy.  It was simply the result of millions of consumers and investors reacting to market incentives.

    I’m also not clear what’s wrong with a service economy.

    • #9
  10. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    TKC1101: I wish I could find the idiot that decided the USA should become a ‘service economy’.

    Isn’t welding a service?

    • #10
  11. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    MarciN: It’s local crony capitalism at its most destructive.

    That doesn’t get mentioned enough. (Though I would say crony corporatism since Adam Smith hated it.) Conservatives ought to despise crony corporatism and loudly say so. I love those clips of Milton Friedman saying, “I am not for big business. Big business is never for the free market.”

    • #11
  12. TKC1101 Inactive
    TKC1101
    @TKC1101

    Henry Castaigne: Isn’t welding a service?

    Wow. Did you really ask that?

    Welding is a craft and skill that can be a service but you will find most of the welds are part of a manufactured product. I have clients who make things, and their welders are part of that. I call that manufacturing.

    • #12
  13. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    Henry Castaigne:

    MarciN: It’s local crony capitalism at its most destructive.

    That doesn’t get mentioned enough. (Though I would say crony corporatism since Adam Smith hated it.) Conservatives ought to despise crony corporatism and loudly say so. I love those clips of Milton Friedman saying, “I am not for big business. Big business is never for the free market.”

    therightthing

    • #13
  14. TKC1101 Inactive
    TKC1101
    @TKC1101

    Joseph Stanko: I’m also not clear what’s wrong with a service economy.

    Show me a sustainable on that can provide gainful employment for a large population.

    • #14
  15. Joseph Stanko Coolidge
    Joseph Stanko
    @JosephStanko

    TKC1101:

    Joseph Stanko: I’m also not clear what’s wrong with a service economy.

    Show me a sustainable on that can provide gainful employment for a large population.

    Look around you, the unemployment rate is 4.9% and has been trending downwards as we recover from the financial crisis.

    • #15
  16. TKC1101 Inactive
    TKC1101
    @TKC1101

    Joseph Stanko: Look around you, the unemployment rate is 4.9% and has been trending downwards as we recover from the financial crisis.

    You do know who is NOT counted in that ridiculous number. If you insist on the Obama Labor Dept happy talk, then we are fine, and nobody should have voted for change.

    We are NOT fine, new business failure have exceeded starts, and the average wages is trending down, meaning we are still losing high value jobs.

     

    • #16
  17. Joseph Stanko Coolidge
    Joseph Stanko
    @JosephStanko

    TKC1101: You do know who is NOT counted in that ridiculous number.

    Yes, it does not count people who are not looking for a job.  Seems perfectly reasonably to me, why do you consider that ridiculous?  Do you have a better metric you think we should use instead?

     

    • #17
  18. TKC1101 Inactive
    TKC1101
    @TKC1101

    Joseph Stanko:

    TKC1101: You do know who is NOT counted in that ridiculous number.

    Yes, it does not count people who are not looking for a job. Seems perfectly reasonably to me, why do you consider that ridiculous? Do you have a better metric you think we should use instead?

    Yes. U6 plus we should add part time job holders than want full time. That would add about 15 points.

     

    • #18
  19. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    TKC1101:
    TKC1101

    Henry Castaigne: Isn’t welding a service?

    Wow. Did you really ask that?

    Welding is a craft and skill that can be a service but you will find most of the welds are part of a manufactured product. I have clients who make things, and their welders are part of that. I call that manufacturing.

    Yes because all of Ricochet is filled with expert welders. Geez I just want to learn about a trade I know nothing about. Most people don’t know anything about their neighbor’s job. But it’s ricochet so I would like to learn a little more.

    • #19
  20. Publius Inactive
    Publius
    @Publius

    The Institute for Justice has been fighting this battle for eons now and they’ve had some successes in this area. This is one of the areas where I tend to go on what most folks would consider to be the more “extreme” end of things, but unless there is some sort of significant public health or safety justification, the government should pound sand when it comes to professional licensing.

    Having to get government permission to work in a particular field should  generally cause revulsion in Americans.  In many cases, it’s just a particular profession and the government colluding to create guilds to keep a particular skill set’s supply down and prices up.

    • #20
  21. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Publius: Having to get government permission to work in a particular field should generally cause revulsion in Americans. In many cases, it’s just a particular profession and the government colluding to create guilds to keep a particular skill set’s supply down and prices up.

    Isn’t that the case everywhere? Milton Friedman complained about this during the time of Hippocrates.

    • #21
  22. Publius Inactive
    Publius
    @Publius

    Joseph Stanko:

    TKC1101: I wish I could find the idiot that decided the USA should become a ‘service economy’.

    I believe that idiot was one Mr. Adam Smith, or rather his invisible hand.

    Since we don’t have a centrally planned economy, no one can decree how jobs should be allocated between the manufacturing, service, and other sectors of the economy. It was simply the result of millions of consumers and investors reacting to market incentives.

    I’m also not clear what’s wrong with a service economy.

    Nothing, but it’s hard to really peg the economies of 1st world developed countries like the United States and Germany with an easy pithy term.  They still manufacture an immense amount of goods, but they’ve moved out of being a t-shirt economy into a turbine economy.  We still make quite a few things in America, but what we make tends to be pretty complex stuff like jet engines more often than simple items like t-shirts.  Those t-shirt jobs went to places where you can get low skilled labor cheaper.

     

    • #22
  23. OkieSailor Member
    OkieSailor
    @OkieSailor

    Henry Castaigne:

    Publius: Having to get government permission to work in a particular field should generally cause revulsion in Americans. In many cases, it’s just a particular profession and the government colluding to create guilds to keep a particular skill set’s supply down and prices up.

    Isn’t that the case everywhere? Milton Friedman complained about this during the time of Hippocrates.

    Everywhere and all time except about 150 years of some folks being serious about Liberty in the Land of the Free. Liberty was even then under attack by those who seek a ‘better’ way, the way of cronyism which keeps one from having to deal with all that annoying competition. Freedom is neither free nor easy but the rewards are well worth the cost.The fruits of cronyism  include, higher prices, mandates and so on. Voters have pretty consistently chosen to be cared for and with that comes constriction of choice and so forth.

    • #23
  24. Arahant Member
    Arahant
    @Arahant

    We still grow a lot of food, too, more than we did decades ago, and certainly a lot more than the Nineteenth Century when more than 50% of the people were employed as farmers or on farms. The transition to more than 50% non-blue collar happened in the 1950’s. Yes, the percentage is much higher now, but as Publius said, we still have a lot of manufacturing. Just not so many manufacturing jobs.

    • #24
  25. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    OkieSailor: The fruits of cronyism include, higher prices, mandates and so on. Voters have pretty consistently chosen to be cared for and with that comes constriction of choice and so forth.

    So voters inevitably chose to hurt themselves?

    • #25
  26. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    Manufacturing in the United States is at or near its all-time high.

    It is jobs that are falling. Not manufactured output.

    • #26
  27. iWe Coolidge
    iWe
    @iWe

    I think the best answer is my Freedom Proposal: Let buyers and sellers freely choose to trade, subject only to whatever contract terms they agree. They can opt out of all regulation in the contract.

    Those who want trained and bonded nail cutters can get them. Those who are willing to risk it for a lower price and/or higher quality, are free to do so.

    • #27
  28. WI Con Member
    WI Con
    @WICon

    Publius:

    Joseph Stanko:

    TKC1101: I wish I could find the idiot that decided the USA should become a ‘service economy’.

    I believe that idiot was one Mr. Adam Smith, or rather his invisible hand… It was simply the result of millions of consumers and investors reacting to market incentives.

    I’m also not clear what’s wrong with a service economy.

    Nothing, but it’s hard to really peg the economies of 1st world developed countries like the United States and Germany with an easy pithy term. They still manufacture an immense amount of goods, but they’ve moved out of being a t-shirt economy into a turbine economy. We still make quite a few things in America, but what we make tends to be pretty complex stuff like jet engines more often than simple items like t-shirts. Those t-shirt jobs went to places where you can get low skilled labor cheaper.

    I’d argue that your examples there, while true, represent two ends of the spectrum. I don’t think people like @TCK1101 are seriously arguing that we’re going to be the worlds #1 manufacturer in paperclips of T-shirts. There has been, however a cumulative hollowing out of the nation’s manufacturing base and works skillset due to that. I’d argue that a combination of unreasonable union wages/contracts coupled with regulation (EPA, Tax, Labor) propelled that movement. A fair amount went to Right to Work states but it isn’t enough. contd.

    • #28
  29. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    Most licensing, government inspections, etc. are not only unnecessary but require the government to do things it can not  do.    They’re just added costs and burdens.   We need to look at all of this stuff in the course of trying to free the economy from government burdens.  Of course there will be an increase in tort and that too will have to be reformed and streamlined as that is the area where abuse of freedoms is made accountable.   Could we actually scrape away centuries of micro political accretions;  things that grow up after almost every scandalous human failure designed to protect us from it happening again but which just add sludge and costs?

    • #29
  30. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    I have a client who had a conviction for drugs ten years ago.  Wife left him. He was working at a local barbecue restaurant since then. They learned after eight years working there that he had a felony conviction and fired him.  Now he hasn’t been able to find work and is at risk of going to jail for not paying child support.

    It’s not just government hurting former criminals. Private employers see convicts as a liability, in this case even someone that has been clean and a faithful employee for years.  But corporate policy said to fire him and now he’s in desperate straits, facing jail.

    There is definitely something wrong with the system.

     

    • #30

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