2023 Bills

HB 181: Connecting Ex-Offenders to Job Opportunities

To track the status of this bill, find it on our Legislation Tracker. Click here to contact the sponsor of the bill to share your thoughts, or click here to email your Senator and Representative about it.

Libertas Institute supports this bill

Staff review of this legislation finds that it aligns with our principles and should therefore be passed into law.

Meet John, a thirty-five-year-old man who was released from prison a year ago after serving a sentence for a nonviolent drug offense. Since his release, he struggled to find a job due to his criminal record, but one day he came across the new web portal designed to connect individuals with criminal histories to available job opportunities. He created an account, uploaded his résumé, and applied for a job as a warehouse worker. He was called for an interview and hired on the spot. 

Now, this is a hypothetical story, but it illustrates the benefits of a service designed to help connect ex-offenders with jobs. 

The pursuit of stable employment is a universal goal. Unfortunately, the job prospects for individuals who have formerly been incarcerated are severely limited, and their unemployment rate is estimated to be 27 percent — significantly higher than the national average. To make matters worse, the jobless rate for this group can be as high as 60 percent.

House Bill 181, sponsored by Representative Ashlee Matthews, attempts to lower these statistics by creating the service described in John’s story.

This bill requires the Department of Workforce Services to create and maintain the portal, through which businesses and state or local entities can post job opportunities and related employment information that individuals with criminal histories can access.

However, while the intent behind the bill is commendable, it raises questions about the government’s role in creating and maintaining such a service. 

Private job search websites already have the infrastructure, expertise, and resources to create and maintain a portal connecting individuals with criminal histories to job opportunities, which could be a more efficient, cost-effective solution. In contrast, government agencies are often constrained by red tape and lack the same level of expertise and resources.

Private companies with experience and resources in the field should be encouraged to create such a service.