Easing Barriers for Ex-offenders

Earlier this month Charles Koch Institute senior fellow Vikrant Reddy participated in a panel hosted by the National Black Chamber of Commerce (NBCC). In the panel, Reddy addressed the integral part the business community can play in easing the re-entry of ex-offenders into productive jobs in society. When ex-offenders find employment, they are less likely to re-offend. Less recidivism reduces incarceration costs for taxpayers. But more than that, it means increased public safety, greater redemption for ex-offenders, and more restitution for victims.

During the panel, Reddy pointed out two tangible policies that might ease offender re-entry. First, Reddy suggested limiting liability for employers who hire ex-offenders. By doing so, an employer cannot be sued for negligent hiring or inadequate supervision solely because an employee has been convicted of an offense.

Instead, the employer’s liability would be limited to incidents where there is a direct relationship between the offense committed by the employee on the job and the type of conviction on the employee’s record. By reducing insurance costs and potential risk, this type of protection would incentivize employers to hire ex-offenders. The Texas Legislature passed such legislation in 2013, and Reddy recommended that other states consider similar reforms.

Reddy also discussed the importance of removing occupational licensing restrictions that serve as barriers to employment. He pointed to state licensing requirements that often prevent ex- offenders from earning the requisite license for certain types of employment based on their criminal history. Reddy explained that arbitrary barriers like these do not enhance public safety, and that the business community can be a strong advocate for removing obstacles like occupational licensing which prevent ex-offenders from re-integrating into productive positions.

Reducing barriers to ex-offender re-entry is an important element of criminal justice reform. Because it is likely to reduce recidivism, assisting ex-offenders in finding employment would help ensure that corrections resources are conserved and applied to their highest valued use, while respecting each individual’s dignity and desire to pursue a meaningful life through work.

The Charles Koch Institute is committed to criminal justice reform and easing barriers for ex-offenders. We’ll soon be in Indiana to discuss second chances in the Hoosier State, and in November, we’re hosting the Advancing Justice summit in New Orleans. We’ve also highlighted the dangers of occupational licensing in Locked Out, a project of Honest Enterprise. You can read more about our work on criminal justice and policing reform here.

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