In his 2018 State of the Union address, President Trump said that “we will embark on reforming our prisons to help former inmates who have served their time get a second chance.”
This sentiment directly follows what Trump promised during his inaugural address, that “we will get our people off of welfare and back to work.” People coming out of incarceration face two distinct paths—they can either find a job, or they will fall into government dependency. Beyond being the main predictor of whether someone is living in poverty, not having a job is the clearest indicator of how likely someone is to re-offend.
Yet one year after their release from incarceration, between 60 percent and 75 percent of ex-offenders remain unemployed. Rather than promoting rehabilitation and independence, states across the country severely limit the work prospects of ex-offenders through occupational licensing laws.