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“He’s never pushed this hard … I’m afraid he’s going to give up — because of the past.” Meko Lincoln is seeking licensure as a chemical dependency clinician after 17 years of incarceration. Source: Washington Post

Last week, the Washington Post took an in-depth look at the personal challenges faced by a handful of Rhode Islanders whose convictions may stand in the way of licensure necessary to pursue their chosen occupations.  Citing the NICCC and the ten thousand-plus occupational licensing consequences it catalogs, the piece paints a vivid portrait of how individual collateral consequences can create barriers to redemption and economic and social stability, both for people with criminal histories and their families.

While efforts to expand access to occupational licenses for people with criminal histories have gained enormous traction in recent years, many states are still struggling with how to give qualified workers the chance they deserve while also protecting public safety.  From the piece:

With a quarter of the U.S. workforce in a licensed occupation, compared with just 5 percent in the 1950s, more than two dozen states have begun to loosen licensing restrictions — but Rhode Island is lagging behind.

While opponents say current licensing regulations are ambiguous and inconsistent, supporters of the licensing regime say undoing the restrictions would usurp the authority of state boards and create additional burdens for agencies. More important, supporters say that the regulations are aimed at protecting public health and safety, and that it would be irresponsible to let people with criminal records, especially those involving violent offenses, enter certain professions.

An attempt at change — with a bill that would have limited licensing denials to people whose crimes directly relate to an occupation — died in the Rhode Island General Assembly in June when the House introduced an amendment excluding those convicted of a violent crime. The broad definition, which included robbery, larceny and burglary, would have excluded people like Lincoln.

The full article, “After Prison, More Punishment,” is available here.