How California’s Job Standards Worsen Recidivism

Job Standards Worsen Recidivism

Detainees line up at the Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic

California has one of the highest recidivism rates in the country: Fifty-eight percent of individuals released from prison end up back in the system within three years, compared with the national average of 40% when excluding California, according to a 2011 study by the Pew Charitable Trusts. Although there are a host of reasons for this unfortunate distinction, one is that the Golden State government makes it unusually difficult for its struggling residents to find jobs.

All states have occupational licensing laws that require individuals to complete various steps before they can enter certain professions. Mandates may include hours, months or even years of training, expensive fees and tests. Over the past several decades, occupational licensing laws in California – and across the country – have grown dramatically. In the 1950s about 5% of occupations were licensed nationwide. Today, roughly 25% of occupations require a state license, many for poor and middle-income professions, according to a recent White House study.

The Golden State’s occupational licensing laws are stricter than most. In fact, the Institute for Justice ranks California as “the second-most broadly and onerously licensed state.” California is one of seven states to license tree trimmers, one of 10 to license landscape workers, one of two to license still machine setters, one of two to license funeral attendants, and one of nine to license farm labor contractors.

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Stephen Slivinski