Catch-22: TX Pays to Train Ex-Convict as Barber, Rejects His Bid for License


Why would one branch of Texas government buy a citizen something with public money only to have another branch declare it worthless months later? Lynn Mays’ now-you-can-have-it, now-you-can’t story began in 2010, when he was released from prison, says the Austin American-Statesman. He was convicted twice for aggravated sexual assault. A criminal record can make it difficult to find a job; ex-prisoners have unemployment rates many times higher than the general population.

It can be particularly difficult to land a job requiring a state license. Regulatory agencies bar convicts from entering many occupations until they have demonstrated they have walked the straight and narrow for sufficient time — up to a decade after leaving prison, in some cases. Eventually, a state counselor recommended that Mays study to become a barber, and the agency agreed to pay for the training. Then, the state’s Department of Licensing and Regulation, citing his criminal record, rejected his application for a license. Responding to complaints of ex-convicts’ paying to learn occupational skills only to be denied a license, the regulatory affairs department now allows potential applicants to seek an opinion on their odds of approval, given their particular criminal backgrounds, before signing up for training.

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