No Bars: Unlocking the Economic Power of the Formerly Incarcerated

20 Pages Posted: 1 Dec 2016

Date Written: November 2016


One in three Americans has a criminal record. Given the significant size of this population, the ability for these individuals to attain economic success after they leave prison has tremendous implications for our economy and economic mobility. But formerly incarcerated individuals face substantial obstacles to employment when they leave prison, from discrimination in hiring to occupational licensing requirements that exclude those with criminal records from specific professions.

This paper summarizes recent research on the employment of formerly incarcerated individuals, focusing in particular on the disproportionate effect of occupational licensing requirements. The paper concludes with suggestions for policy changes that would reduce the friction this population experiences in the labor market. These policies would help these individuals become more economically independent and have a positive impact on the economy as a whole.

Keywords: policy, mayors conference, prisoners, criminal, record, hiring, occupational licensing, incarcerated, economy

Suggested Citation

Fetsch, Emily, No Bars: Unlocking the Economic Power of the Formerly Incarcerated (November 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Emily Fetsch (Contact Author)

Kansas Action for Children ( email )

709 S Kansas, Suite 200
Topeka, KS 66603
United States
7857837370 (Phone)

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