JMI: Reducing the Number of Licensed Occupations Could Reduce Re-Arrest Rates

The James Madison Institute (JMI) released a report on Monday noting that “lowering barriers to entry by deregulating occupational licensing laws could have a one-for-one impact on reducing recidivism” as “a one percent reduction in the number of licensed occupations could reduce re-arrest rates by one percent.”

JMI unveiled “Bridging the Divide: Licensing and Recidivism” by Dr. Sam Staley and Vittorio Nastasi on Monday.

“About 86 percent of individuals released from prison are likely to re-offend within nine years of their release, with the majority re-offending within the first two years,” JMI noted. “With more than 1.5 million people in prisons nationwide and approximately 100,000 in Florida alone, transitioning formerly incarcerated people into the mainstream workforce and community is of vital importance.”

The report “examines an often neglected, but potentially important, barrier to transitioning formerly incarcerated people into mainstream society and the economy: occupational licensing. In the U.S., nearly one-third of all occupations now require licenses before workers can practice their profession, requiring an average of nine months of training. Florida alone licenses over 300 professions and businesses.”

Sal Nuzzo, JMI’s vice president of policy, weighed in on the report.

“In the world of policy analysis, we often spend our time focusing on numbers, charts, and statistics,” Nuzzo said. “It is my sincere hope that with this analysis we see the reality – that behind the statistics in this incredible study are human beings, worthy of respect and possessing intrinsic value, trying to make a better life for themselves and their families. This is why we do what we do – to help promote opportunity for all of us, regardless of life circumstances.”

“Research consistently shows that a steady job is critical to helping those leaving prison stabilize their life and avoid re-offending. Unnecessary barriers to employment, such as most occupational licensing laws, are significant obstacles to the gainful employment formerly incarcerated people need to re-join our communities as productive members,” said Saley who is the director of the DeVoe L. Moore Center at Florida State University and serves on JMI’s Research Advisory Council.

“Occupational licensing is a classic example of well-intended public policy gone awry. Rather than protect consumers or ensure service quality, licenses erect barriers to entry for workers. This study indicates that overly burdensome training and formal education requirements are especially detrimental to former offenders. Reducing these requirements could significantly ease the reintegration process by opening new opportunities for gainful employment,” said Nastas who is an associate scholar with JMI.

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