Occupational Licensing Creates Barriers for Nebraskans No Longer Behind Bars

Occupational Licensing Creates Barriers for Nebraskans No Longer Behind Bars

After leaving prison, finding a job can be an ex-offender’s most essential step for reintegrating into society.  But their criminal record can also make it one of their most difficult. 

A recent article in Reason Magazine shows occupational licensing laws are making it even harder for formerly incarcerated Nebraskans to find gainful employment.

In the piece, Eric Boehm shows that state occupational licensing laws frequently exclude people with criminal records from certain jobs – even if their crimes had nothing to do with the occupation in question or were committed long ago.

Citing a study from the Center for the Study of Economic Liberty at Arizona State, Boehm explains how in the past decade, states with occupational licensing laws that bar people with criminal records showed rising recidivism rates – the rate at which people return to prison after release – whereas states without such laws experienced falling recidivism rates over the same period. 

Data from the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services confirms the study’s findings, showing a statewide 1 percent increase in recidivism annually.  If Nebraska were to reform its occupational licensing laws, this trend could change, as more ex-offenders at risk of re-entering the criminal justice system would have the ability to choose a lawful career instead.

In response to the occupational license crisis, Nebraska state Sen. Laura Ebke has introduced Legislative Bill 299, which would review many of the state’s occupational license laws and provide ex-offenders an expedited ability to inquire if their record would prohibit them from acquiring a professional license. 

Nebraska was successful this past legislative session in removing barriers to employment in several different occupations.  The Legislature should follow through on these gains in the fall by passing Ebke’s legislation.

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Photo by Nebraska Department of Correctional Services.

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