Opinion: Criminal Justice Shouldn’t Deny Juveniles the Chance to Win Gainful Employment

The Hill

By Nila Bala and Jesse Kelley

Juvenile facilities are increasingly offering opportunities to young people to focus on training and development of vocational skills. Take the Tuscaloosa County Juvenile Detention Center in Alabama, which recently received funds to continue developing their program to teach juvenile offenders welding. The program has improved youth engagement, fostered math skills and encouraged youth to earn a GED, according to the director of the program.

However, without post-release support and logistical training, education alone does not ensure youthful offenders a viable career path. To become a gainfully employed welder, for example, a youth would need to obtain certification and, in some states like New York, attain further licensing. And this poses a problem.

Many technical fields — and an estimated 25 percent of all jobs — require an occupational license. Occupational licenses are regulated at the state level and, in many cases, despite receiving the training to practice in a field, an individual with a criminal record will be ultimately prohibited from receiving the licensing he or she needs. A survey completed in December 2015 found that one-third of occupational licenses include automatic exclusions for individuals with criminal records.

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