“My for-profit school, Larry’s Barber College, has a mission to educate the next generation of licensed barber professionals. We are the only accredited program currently operating within a state facility. Our vision is to provide our students, both juveniles and adults in the prison system, hope so they can see themselves being able to take care of themselves when they get out.”

“Folks are not doing these crimes for no reason at all. They’re just trying to feed their families, and we’re giving them an alternative through a trade skill that they developed while serving their time.”

“They say, ‘Okay, I want to change my life. I’ve heard about this barbering thing. I’ve gone through the program. I’m actually pretty good at it. I’ve done everything that I need to do to pass the requirements, 1,500 clock hours. Now I’m being released back into the civilian population. I don’t want to go back to prison, but now I don’t have any way to continue the skill that I started while I was in prison.’”

“That’s where they run into bad policy.”

“There are professional licenses that need to be obtained by people who want to begin a career in this industry. But there are also arbitrary policies in place that disincentivize them from pursuing those licenses and their dreams.”

“The discretionary policy around criminal records in particular creates a hurdle making it prohibitively difficult for people who want to turn their lives around legally to enter the industry, be gainfully employed, or start their own business.”

“There is a nationwide shortage of the licensed barbers and licensed barber instructors.”

“And there is money for the state of Illinois if they work with us in helping to make it easier for people to get their barber’s licenses and barber instructor’s licenses, so the government doesn’t have to continue raising property and gas taxes on people on the South Side.”

“My team and I are doing this work to change the trajectory of not only individuals’ lives, but also transform the health of the families and communities these individuals are connected to. Individuals are connected to families and families are connected to communities.”

“And so, in the end, we’re able to change communities through providing economic justice.”

“The city government has a history of raising property taxes on the south side of Chicago because that’s one of the only ways politicians know to generate revenue.”

“That’s not sustainable.”

“Constantly raising property taxes in the city continues to hurt communities of color. Alternatively, working to bring commercial businesses to the south and west side of Chicago, say 12 to 25 employees, provides jobs and economic growth.”

“Hundreds of students have completed my program to become barbers and barber instructors, but due to [Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation] licensing discretion, students may be denied licenses without explanation. Then, most have nowhere to practice while their fate is being determined by the licensing board.”

“By receiving and maintaining their licenses, they become taxpaying citizens and contribute in a way that is meaningful to society.”

“We know that in our industry, they could make $20 to $25 an hour, and if they work 2,000 hours, which is a work year, now they’re making $50,000 a year.”

“Discouraging people prematurely prevents them from even having the opportunity to build that career, that business, that dream – and hurts future generations and state revenue down the line.”

“Some of them want to own their own shops to employ other people from their community. So now they become business owners, and some of them want to educate people. Then, they become our partners to open up a school.”

“There again, you’ve created a chain of generational wealth and that could go into the tax base for the state of Illinois.”

“That’s money that shouldn’t be sidelined.”

“If you look around, most wealthier communities have healthy commercial businesses in them, and we’re trying to provide the same for our communities.”

“There is an alternative to burdensome property taxation; we provide an alternative by creating opportunities for wealth generation, legally.”

Larry E. Roberts Jr.
Licensed master barber, founder Larry’s Barber College
Chicago, Illinois