(Dennis Hof) – While some in the Nevada Legislature seem singularly intent on giving prisoners the right to vote while in jail – a right gave they gave up when they chose, of their own accord, not to abide by our community’s laws – a better focus would be on helping prisoners re-enter the workforce after they’ve paid their debt to society.
Consider the following report by National Review’s Jibran Khan that was published last month…
“As wildfires sweep through California, a team of over 2,000 volunteers has taken to the flames with firefighting equipment to keep the damage at bay. The team, which consists of prisoners, has been successfully fighting fires in the state for years, and has proved up to the task. (They would not still be charged with it, otherwise.)
“Many such inmates then leave prison with years of firefighting experience – yet the job, in the civilian world, is off-limits to them.
“Because prospective firemen are generally required to have EMT licenses, and because licensing boards are disinclined to issue those to people with criminal histories, there is little prospect of the prisoners continuing their work when they leave prison.
“Or, to put it another way, in the midst of a national firefighter shortage, regulations are locking out from the profession a set of experienced firefighters from doing a job that they are qualified for.”
Khan goes on to note that this problem is not confined to firefighting…
“Many jobs that prisoners do on the inside, such as barbering and hairdressing, are off-limits to those with a criminal history, because they require licenses in most jurisdictions, and those licenses serve to filter out such people.”
And Khan further notes that the problem doesn’t apply just to former prisoners…
“About a third of jobs in the U.S. require an occupational license (up from 5 percent in the 1950s). That high proportion itself understates the problem, because when it comes to low level jobs, just about everything that comes to mind, from masonry to TV installation to floristry, requires a license.
“Some of these licenses…tend to be so burdensome to obtain that it is a financial impossibility for many poor people, as they must commit to weeks of training, hundreds of dollars in fees, and other requirements.”
It’s one thing to require an occupational license for people involved in professions that have a true public safety concern, such as doctors. But interior decorators and manicurists? Come on.
We don’t need new laws so much as we need to get rid of a bunch of the old, dumb ones. And many of our current occupational licensing laws are among the dumbest of the dumb.
Nevada legislators from both parties should be able to find common ground on this issue and I’ll be looking for criminal justice reform allies on both sides of the aisle in the 2019 session to open up more jobs for more people in our state.
Mr. Hof is a successful Nevada businessman, author, philanthropist, star of an award-winning reality TV series on HBO and president of the Home of Freedom PAC. He’s running for Nevada’s Assembly District 36 seat. He can be reached at DennisHof.com