Legislature reduces restrictions for formerly incarcerated wanting barber, cosmetology licenses
Image via Fresh Take Business.

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Proponents of the bill are hoping it marks the start of a larger reentry push.

Most people don’t have to wait a decade to take a barber’s licensing exam. Kenneth Marshall scheduled his exam in 2014 but didn’t make it after he was arrested and convicted for cocaine possession. After his release last year, the now 51-year-old Orlando resident is still waiting.

bill passed in the Legislature this week may change that for Marshall — and others looking to become licensed barbers after getting out of prison.

The bill reduces how long criminal background checks could be used to keep a former inmate from applying for a barber or cosmetology license and allows any inmate enrolled in barber or cosmetology classes while incarcerated to apply those credits toward getting a license.

In addition, the measure specifies the term “conviction” applies regardless of crime or sentencing, but allows boards to consider crimes listed in specific statutes if they relate to the profession’s practice.

Kejana “Andrew” Miller has worked as a barber for nine years and started out of high school. Miller, who serves as a City Commissioner in High Springs in north-central Florida, has no criminal background and supports the change in legislation. “So, in my opinion, dropping to three years is great,” he said. The quicker those reentering society can get back to a normal job, the quicker they can turn away from crime as a pathway, Miller said.

State law denies licensure based on an applicant’s criminal history if the conviction was in the last five years. The approved measure reduces that to three.

Forcible felonies — which involve physical violence — will still be used to deny an applicant regardless of how old their charges were. That means Marshall’s 1989 felony attempted armed robbery conviction may still prevent him from getting a license.

“If you got a guy that’s actually coming out of prison and he’s made a commitment to transition to learning a trade so he don’t have to go and commit a crime again, how are you going to use something he’s already done against him?” Marshall said. “This man has already paid his dues.”

In the last 10 years, the Board of Cosmetology and the Barbers’ Board have used both nonviolent crimes, including drug possession and petty theft, and violent crimes to deny licenses, according to public disclosures.

Proponents of the bill are hoping it marks the start of a larger reentry push.

Rep. Kevin Chambliss, a Miami-Dade Democrat, sponsored the original version of the measure. While he initially pushed for a shorter window of two years, Chambliss believes if the bill passes it will “start the conversation” around reentry programs, and open the door for similar future legislation, he said.

“It’s an ongoing process of negotiation, we’re really just very excited that we stuck with this issue, and we’re right there at the finish line.”

The legislation’s focus on barber and cosmetology licenses initially came from issues inmates taking classes faced, he said. Without the bill, the relevant boards don’t have to recognize training hours done under a correctional facility program in its hour requirements.

Barber and cosmetology licenses currently require applicants to pass an exam, pay an application fee and have 900 or 1,200 hours of training, respectively.

There are at least six correctional facilities in Florida with barber or cosmetology training programs. The Department of Corrections did not immediately say how many inmates were participating in these programs.

The new measure requires these credits to be approved by their respective boards.

The changes would come without any substantial state taxation changes, according to a staff analysis report.

Florida has the second-highest employment level among barbers, according to a 2022 report. In Fiscal Year 2021-2022, over 27,000 barber licenses were active in Florida, according to a report.

Working without a license doesn’t just make it more difficult to find clients, it’s a second-degree misdemeanor that can result in a maximum penalty of $500 and 60 days in jail.

After his release, Marshall bounced from home to home of relatives and friends, going to Davenport and ending up in Orlando. Without a car, he relies on the bus for transport and uses loans and academic stipends to cover costs.

Through handing out business cards and networking, Marshall’s been able to grab individual clients who let him cut their hair for pay on the side. By getting a barber license, he said he could consistently work out of a shop, allowing for a more stable, livable income.

He’s stayed committed, Marshall said, to be a positive role model for his son.

“I just kind of keep myself in a positive light and do what I need to do the right way,” he said. “To let him know, ‘Hey man, I’ve had my chances. I’ve done my wrongs, man, but I’m going to let you see me do right, so there’s going to be no issue with you doing right.’”
This story was produced by Fresh Take Business, a news service covering business news from the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications. The reporter can be reached at [email protected].

Fresh Take Florida


  • JD

    March 2, 2024 at 6:23 am

    Why is there a restriction in the first place? Lets push people BACK into crime because they have unnecessary red tape to cut hair or do nails?

    “Florida – it’s not the heat, it’s the stupidity”

    • Dangerous Florida, Now Fully Defunded

      March 2, 2024 at 7:19 am

      And yet another personal vendetta taken against rehabilitated; like every hairdresser in dangerous Florida ISN’T a criminal that hasn’t been caught…
      Smoking weed in the car ride home?
      Fentanyl this weekend?

  • Larry Gillis, Libertarian (Cape Coral)

    March 2, 2024 at 8:53 am

    Let the Free Market decide which barbers should thrive and which ones should not. The current regulations are “turf protection”, nothing more. Twelve hundred hours of “training” to get a license from the State? As if.
    Lemme tell you this: section VII of the platform of the LPF (Libertarian Party of Florida) reads in part as follows:
    ” … 4. Business and Professional Licensing
    We call for abolishing all business and occupational licenses. The right of the people to conduct commerce is inherent, and should not require
    the permission of the State. …”

    • rick whitaker

      March 3, 2024 at 5:14 pm

      larry, i’m an unlicensed neurosurgeon, come to me when you want your brain transplant, because you need one badly. what a fool you are.

  • Earl Pitts "Sage Political Expert Emeritas" American

    March 2, 2024 at 3:40 pm

    Good evening Three Little Dook 4 Brains Nonsenceical Leftist Babblers Above,
    The Great State of Florida has been educating both male and female prisioners in prison for years and also giving licensure exams *in prison* prior to release back into society for years.
    This Sage Legislation is just a natural extension to Florida’s Sage Plan which has already been in place.
    Your “Typical Dook 4 Brains Leftist Sniping Commentary” (above) just shows your ignorant Leftist Mind-Set.
    Be ashamed Dook 4 Brains Leftist Commentators above.
    Thank you 3 posters above,
    Earl Pitts American/Floridian

    • rick whitaker

      March 3, 2024 at 5:03 pm


    • rick whitaker

      March 4, 2024 at 10:30 am

      earl, come on, you asking someone else to be very ashamed about something is laughable. you, yourself, have NO shame at all for anything. i know, being shameless is your lame game. many lefties know too much about you for you to be so misbehaving in your lame commentary. what a fool you are.

Comments are closed.


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