Amid a labor shortage, 6 million Floridians with arrest records face barriers to employment
Florida can bolster its workforce by removing barriers to employment, stopping cycles of crime, and “sunsetting” old records
TALLAHASSEE – The Alliance for Safety and Justice and Associated Industries of Florida today released a groundbreaking new report examining the economic toll of barriers that keep people with records out of the workforce at a time when Florida is facing a prolonged labor shortage. More than six million Floridians have an arrest record, but once these returning citizens have served their time and intend to rejoin the workforce to give back to their communities, they face nearly 800 government regulations restricting their employment and licensing – despite the state’s current need for more than 150,000 workers. This approach costs the state of Florida over $40 billion annually, hurting businesses and failing to utilize a population that is skilled and ready to work.
Current policies negatively impact Florida’s workforce in important ways:
- At least 788 regulations make it more difficult for people with records to find meaningful employment. Many of these regulations are not tied to reasonable public safety concerns. A conviction can make someone ineligible to work in a funeral home or even act as a wholesale distributor for gasoline.
- Having a criminal conviction reduces hiring callbacks by half for white job applicants and by nearly two-thirds for Black applicants, despite countless testimonies by employers of the skills and capabilities of people with records.
“The priority of our criminal justice system should be to keep our communities safe and improve outcomes for those who have served their time. The barriers that people with old records face when they’re reentering society do nothing to keep us safe or to end cycles of crime. Together, we can adopt proven solutions that bolster our local workforce and set people on a path towards redemption. We have the tools to strengthen communities and empower those who are looking to work,” said Subhash Kateel, Florida State Director for the Alliance for Safety and Justice.
“When businesses thrive, workers and communities thrive as well – but communities across our state face a worker shortage that desperately needs to be addressed. Our elected leaders can take steps to activate a workforce that is skilled and eager to get back to work, all while maintaining public safety. Millions of Floridians are shut out of the economy even after they have already paid their debt to society. By eliminating barriers to employment for these individuals, we can help make sure everyone who wants a job can get a job,” said Brewster Bevis, President and Chief Executive Officer of Associated Industries of Florida.
The new report outlines several proposals to remove unnecessary barriers, stop cycles of crime, and help the local economy, including:
- Removing bureaucratic barriers to people entering the workforce. In 2022, the Florida Legislature, with AIF’s and ASJ’s support, advanced a bill that would have allowed records currently automatically sealed at the state level to also be automatically sealed at the local court level. Policymakers should continue to support this bill and pass it next session so more people can return to the workforce sooner.
- Sunsetting old records. Policymakers can create processes to sunset old records after a person has served their time and not committed any crimes after a set period of time. Sunsetting an old record effectively makes any public evidence of the arrest or conviction confidential while still allowing law enforcement and the courts access to those records if necessary.
- Incentivizing job skills. Providing educational opportunities for incarcerated people, such as skills certificates or opportunities to earn a GED (the equivalent of a high school diploma) can help prepare people to enter the workforce.
The full report can be read here.
About the Alliance for Safety and Justice
The Alliance for Safety and Justice is a national organization that aims to win evidence-based new safety priorities in states across the country. It also brings together diverse crime survivors to advance policies that help communities most harmed by crime and violence, as part of Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice – its national network of over 90,000 crime survivors with over 8000 members in Florida. For more information, visit: https://allianceforsafetyandjustice.org or https://cssj.org.
About Associated Industries of Florida
Known as “The Voice of Florida Business” in the Sunshine State, Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) has represented the principles of prosperity and free enterprise before the three branches of state government since 1920. A voluntary association of diversified businesses, AIF was created to foster an economic climate in Florida conducive to the growth, development, and welfare of industry and business and the people of the state. For more information on AIF, visit AIF.com and follow @VoiceofFLBiz.