It's time to do more to let ex-offenders back into the workforce

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On July 19, President Trump signed an executive order aimed at creating more opportunities for job training amid a shifting demand for skills and education in the U.S. labor market. This initiative was supported by more than 15 major companies, including Walmart, Microsoft, and General Motors, who have pledged to expand apprenticeships and provide more skills-based job training. These companies collectively pledged to train or hire 3.8 million people over the next five years.

This executive order should be applauded, but the administration's pro-growth agenda could go a step further. In a strong labor market, policymakers should focus on helping those with criminal records find work.

According to Trump's executive order, 6.7 million jobs are currently unfilled—a historic high. This labor shortage is incentivizing employers to consider previously-overlooked populations to find talent.

Of the many hurdles ex-offenders face during reentry into society, finding work is arguably the toughest. A 2003 Harvard study found that job applicants with a record of a felony conviction are 50 percent less likely to receive a call back. One-third of adults in the U.S. have past convictions, while 90 percent of companies use background checks in their hiring decisions. This discourages applications from potentially qualified candidates who may have prior convictions while also putting many jobs further out of reach. As a result, one year after release, over 60 percent of former inmates remain unemployed.

It's clear that helping ex-offenders would have significant positive economic effects. The Center for Economic Policy Research finds that lost output from people with criminal records accounts for a loss of $78 to $87 billion in GDP annually. According to an analysis by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy, if we could better incorporate ex-offenders into the workplace, $2,600 would be returned to taxpayers.

Furthermore, helping those with criminal history find employment brings many benefits for public safety, specifically by reducing recidivism. A 2016 Arizona State University study showed that the inability to obtain a job is the best indicator of how likely someone is to re-offend or end up re-incarcerated. Additionally, research from the University of Chicago found that decreases in the overall unemployment rate causes a corresponding drop in the crime rates associated with larceny, auto theft, and burglary, reflecting how much less likely felons are to commit future crimes if they're able to find employment after prison.

The Trump administration has consistently stated its support of improving the reentry process and reducing recidivism. So, what steps should it take? The biggest challenge is identifying how to help individuals released from incarceration adapt to a changing labor market after missing opportunities to gain skills, networks, and a sufficient education while incarcerated.

Employers must play crucial role in advancing fresh start initiatives. Open-minded hiring requires that employers focus on applicants' qualifications and skills, not their history. Fortunately, large corporations such as Starbucks, Target, and Koch Industries are setting a precedent for reform by adopting their own "ban-the-box" policies, where they don't ask job-seekers about prior convictions. This encourages more individuals to apply and helps employers find the best talent.

Another way to help ex-offenders find employment is by reducing regulatory barriers, specifically when it comes to occupational licensing, the practice of government requiring individuals to obtain a license or certification to pursue a particular profession. States such as Kansas, Tennessee, and Indiana passed occupational licensing reforms this year that ease government restrictions on ex-offenders finding work. Specifically, these states ended the use of vague, discretionary standards that enabled licensing authorities to consider past crimes and minor legal violations that are unrelated to the profession being pursued by an applicant. Many of these laws also prohibit licensing authorities from using criminal history as a disqualification for licensure if a set period of time has passed since the applicant's conviction. Now, licensing boards in these states must give specific, relevant reasons for denying a license to someone based on a criminal conviction. As a result, their decisions are more transparent and ex-offenders are presented with fewer barriers when trying to obtain an occupational license. The Trump administration should push more states in this direction.

Simply put, corrections policy needs to promote work. Congress should continue working on legislation such as the First Step Act that passed the House this summer. Legislation like this offers inmates coming out of prison a second chance by implementing programs that prepare individuals for jobs. This is done by providing educational assistance, rehabilitation programs, and vocational skills development.

President Trump can improve his recent executive order by calling for hiring and apprenticeship initiatives that focus specifically on ex-offenders and utilizing the administration's close cooperation with business leaders. This will provide more momentum for state-level reforms that reduce licensing restrictions and other government barriers to work.

Work is the main key to reducing recidivism, thereby strengthening communities and bolstering public safety. With today's booming economy, now is the time to promote reentry reform by attacking burdensome occupational licensing regulations, advancing hiring reform, and creating an environment that encourages ex-offenders to find work. While President Trump is notorious for wanting to build walls, this portion of his agenda must aim to break down barriers.

Mitchell Siegel is an intern at the Foundation for Government Accountability. He is rising junior studying economics at Duke University.

Whether it's a 'War on Christmas' or just progressivism run amok, the song 'Baby It's Cold Outside' has been firmly in the crosshairs this holiday season. Here are just a few of the headlines making the rounds:

Should radio stations stop playing 'Baby, It's Cold Outside'?

They range from the previous as questioning and then roll right into the following and assume facts not in evidence.

'Baby, It's Cold Outside,' Seen As Sexist, Frozen Out by Radio Stations

It may be seen as sexist but according to one radio stations polling, only about 5% do. Then they go from saying it's sexist to straight up claiming it as a rape song.

Radio Bans 'Baby It's Cold Outside' Over Claims It's A Rape Song, English Teacher Explains Its Real Meaning

And then they just flat out call for its retirement.

Is it time to retire 'Baby, It's Cold Outside'?

The left might think they are woke and on the right side of history in the wake of the #MeToo movement — but how shocked do you think they'd be if they knew Glenn beat them to the punch over a decade ago? Don't believe me? Take a listen to this clip from our audio vault from 2008.

How long until we follow in Europe's footsteps?

JAMES ARTHUR GEKIERE/AFP/Getty Images

Christmas should be a time of happiness and celebration the world over. But in Europe, it is now the season of terror. The sounds at Europe's famous Christmas Markets of "Merry Christmas!" and laughter are rapidly being replaced with the sounds of "Allahu Ackbar!" and gunfire. Two years ago ISIS attacked a Christmas Market in Berlin, killing twelve and injuring another forty-eight. And tragically, the sound of automatic gunfire and the chant of "Allahu Ackbar!" was heard at another Christmas Market in Europe yesterday afternoon… this time in France.

Two people are dead and thirteen are battling for their lives right now in Strasbourg, France. The attacker walked into the city's Christmas Market shortly after 8pm, shouted "Allahu Ackbar" and began shooting indiscriminately. He then proceeded to battle the police in four separate locations while he fled the scene. As of this moment, he still hasn't been caught. The city of Strasbourg is on full lockdown, and France's terror level has been elevated.

RELATED: Paris pandemonium: Here's what happens when people feel ignored

A man of Middle Eastern descent has been identified as the suspect. He was already on a terror watchlist and had been deported from Germany recently with twenty criminal convictions. He's well known in Islamist circles and was reportedly radicalized after spending time in prison. Apparently he was too radical for the Germans… but not for France.

What is it going to take for progressive governments like France to wake up to their failed policies? Nearly 300 people have been killed in terror attacks in France over the past three years. 300 in three years! But despite that, the French government refuses to address immigration, they continue their open border policy and - more importantly - they refuse to listen to their people when they try and tell them that they're scared to death over this issue. Instead they get a lecture on Islamophobia… "that's the real problem."

Outrage has replaced baseball as our national pastime.

This is one of the reasons why the Yellow Vests are tearing the country apart. The government refuses to listen to their fears on terrorism, unchecked immigration, open borders, the failing economy, high taxes and out of control spending. Wow... do these issues sound at all familiar? How many years behind France are we? Just listen to ourselves.

Outrage has replaced baseball as our national pastime. People have lost the ability to engage in peaceful protest. Street demonstrations have turned into street brawls. Have you seen the images from places like Portland lately? European governments are losing the social contract with their people. After years of broken promises and outright lies from Washington, how long before that happens here?

The Congressional reckoning for the giants of Silicon Valley continued yesterday. This time it was finally Google CEO Sundar Pichai's [Soon-dar Pa-shy] turn in the hot seat. There were protesters. There was Alex Jones and Roger Stone sitting beside each other. Good times were had by all. Pichai remained soft-spoken and calm throughout the grilling. It was his first time testifying before Congress. And you know what they say about your first time – that you should never admit to having even a hint of anti-conservative bias. We start there right now…

In his opening statement, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said:

I lead this company without political bias and work to ensure that our products continue to operate that way. To do otherwise would go against our core principles and our business interests.

RELATED: Still want to believe Google isn't evil? Then don't listen to THIS interview

Congressmen from both parties were not convinced of Google's innocence. For three and a half hours, they let Pichai have it from all angles. Republican Iowa Representative Steve King asked Pichai to disclose the names of over 1,000 Google employees that work on Google's search algorithm, so that their social media accounts could be examined for liberal bias. Pichai did not hand over the list.

Meanwhile, at least one Democrat, Tennessee's Steve Cohen, feels Google has the opposite problem. He complained to Pichai that Google overuses conservative news organizations in their search results. Pichai insisted that Google employees do not favor certain news outlets over others.

Pichai saved his most artful question-dodging for the China issue. Lawmakers wanted to know about "Project Dragonfly," the communist-friendly version of Google's search engine that the company has been working on in collaboration with the Chinese government. Pichai said:

It's a limited effort internally currently.

When asked whether Google is in current discussions with the Chinese government about Project Dragonfly, Pichai replied:

…I'm happy to be transparent to the extent we take steps toward launching a product in China." Which sounds like a definite maybe.

But then, Democrats got back to the much more urgent Google issues at hand. Like Zoe Lofgren of California who asked why Donald Trump's photo pops up when you Google the word "idiot."

And to think your tax dollars helped subsidize this enlightening Q & A.