States across the U.S. are seeing labor shortages, perhaps due to COVID-19 or unprecedented job growth in recent years. Nonetheless, there are not enough Americans to fill the vacancies. Where can we find more laborers? Well, legislators are now looking at Illinois’ prisons to see if they can kill two birds with one stone, so to speak.
However, there remain several pitfalls for those released from prison, not the least of which is very few schools will take prison transfer credits. Why would they? Illinois requires that all potential barbers get 1,500 hours of credits before their licensing. This, of course, costs a lot of money. Those coming out of prison would have to pay for the entire 1,500 hours as opposed to transferring their credits from prison to the new school. Right now, very few schools are willing to take transfer credits from prison.
Now, it is becoming clear that reducing requirements, including high school diplomas or GEDs, is necessary to train the next generation of truck drivers, barbers, and other professional trades. Eliminating these barriers would make it easier for everyone to apply for these jobs. It would also cost less to apply for certification. These costs often present a barrier to entry for many of the urban poor who end up relying on banditry to acquire money. When there’s no hope that functioning within the system will result in a positive outcome, then the only option is to operate outside of it.
The overall result of approaching certifications this way further stratifies the gap between the middle class and poor, resulting in more urban crime, fewer laborers, and higher costs for everyone, including shoppers who must rely on fewer truckers to transport goods.
Why are We Thinking About This Now?
It is a fair question. If this were a pressing urge, then why are we only thinking about it now as opposed to years ago when we were placing all these regulations into effect? Well, the labor shortage is resulting in higher costs for consumers and anxiety for investors. Today, there are so many economic barriers to getting a job that it becomes hopeless for many individuals to operate in the “white market.” If you did not graduate high school, you would be expected to get a GED before getting your trade certification. That is money out of your own pocket while you are working 40 hours a week. What do most people do? Well, they go into debt.
Today, we do not have enough workers to meet demand. This is good for workers as companies will be competing with each other over a smaller number of workers. This should drive up wages, but only if you have the professional licensure required. Hopefully, former prisoners will have a leg up on the job market, as this is one of the foremost factors in determining recidivism.
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