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Breaking Barriers: A Call to Connect Reentrants with Employment Opportunities

Kylie McCarthy, University of New Haven

Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

It is well-established that finding and maintaining employment has been correlated with recidivism outcomes for formerly incarcerated offenders (Lockwood et al., 2015; Tripodi et al., 2010). However, in the United States, it is estimated that more than 30% of individuals who are released from prison are never able to find employment (Lockwood et al., 2015). Current literature suggests this could be due to the stigmatizations that follow one with a criminal background, limited work experiences, or inadequate educational training. Previous policies focus on vocational training programs to help individuals become more marketable, or removing job application questions regarding criminal history. Although these policies exist in an attempt to remedy the issues regarding previously incarcerated individuals finding and maintaining employment, they have either been deemed unsuccessful, or come with unintended consequences. 

 

Despite previous policy attempts to aid formerly incarcerated individuals during reentry, it is a challenging process, particularly when one is seeking employment. This brief suggests a shift away from altering applications or providing vocational trainings, toward focusing on an issue that has yet to be addressed. This issue is the gap that exists with employers who are willing and able to hire those with a criminal record, but are unable to find contacts with formerly incarcerated individuals who are seeking legitimate employment. The policy recommendation presented is the creation of an outreach program in which these two groups of people are able to connect. This recommendation addresses, in a new way, how CT legislators can assist formerly incarcerated individuals with finding and maintaining legitimate employment during the reentry process. Overall, the aim is to reduce recidivism and crime rates, through connecting employers and potential employees in a cost-efficient and beneficial way.

 

Reentry, Recidivism, and Employment

 

The United States leads the world in number of incarcerated individuals, with nearly two million people currently serving time (Sawyer & Wagner, 2023). As such, there is a sizeable population reentering daily. Reentry is defined as the transition that formerly incarcerated individuals experience as they move from prison or jail back into society (Antenangeli & Durose, 2021). A person’s success during this transition is important for personal, emotional, social, and economic reasons (Bahr et al., 2005; Bowman & Travis, 2012) but is also vital as failed reentry may result in recidivism which could lead to reincarceration. Addressing the issue of recidivism is largely pertinent in the US justice system, as upwards of 80% of formerly incarcerated persons across 24 states were arrested a second time within 10 years of release, with 43% of these individuals experiencing rearrest within one year (Antenangeli & Durose, 2021). A large majority of individuals are released on parole, serving some period of their sentence in society under various conditions (U.S. Parole Commission, 2022). Although criteria for parole may differ by state or offense type, obtaining legitimate employment is a consistent aspect and often, desire, for many individuals.

 

There has been a longstanding relationship between employment, recidivism, and reentry. Researchers evaluating recidivism have suggested that employment is pertinent to successful reintegration, especially when combined with various positive social ties (Bahr et al., 2005; Berg & Huebner, 2011). Social ties may come from family or friends, or be introduced in work environments. Despite the consensus on the importance of attaining employment, the fact that a majority of individuals had stable employment prior to incarceration (Visher et al, 2008), and the desire from many individuals to work, there are many challenges that one faces during this process. This comes not only from the minds of researchers and legislators, but former offenders themselves, as many have revealed that they believe this to be the most difficult part of reentry (Augustine, 2019).

 

The stigmatization that comes with having time-served is arguably the most detrimental aspect of having a criminal record. The stigmas that exist often surround being labeled as someone who exhibits bad behavior that will transfer to their status as an employee (Hirschfield & Piquero, 2010). This perception from hiring managers is further damaging when individuals have felony charges compared to misdemeanors. One study indicated that despite general willingness to hire an ex-offender, more than 80% of employers rescinded this notion when the offense was violent in nature (Atkin & Armstrong, 2013), regardless of previous work experience or qualifications (Cerda et al., 2015). Coupled with this stigma is the issue of limited education and work experience that those who have served time often incur due to the circumstances of the prison system (Cerda et al., 2015; Visher et al., 2008). Furthermore, Graffam et al. (2008) highlighted that employers were less likely to hire offenders than most other disadvantaged groups. The combination of these things makes it very difficult for formerly incarcerated individuals to find legitimate work, notwithstanding the evidence that it is a pertinent aspect of successful reintegration.

 

Pre-Existing Policies

 

In 1994, the Connecticut General Assembly passed Sec. 46a-80 as part of the human rights, anti-discrimination law, which states that employers cannot refuse to hire someone based solely on whether they have been formerly convicted (Lohman, 1994). However, employers can reject applicants with a criminal record if they believe that the candidate is inapt due to the nature of the conviction and its relevance to the job, their current rehabilitation status, and time since release. Although the law intends to prevent discrimination of convicted offenders, the ambiguity leaves employers with the power to potentially discriminate in inconspicuous ways.

 

In April of 2008, the 2nd Chance Act was passed by Congress (BJA, 2018). Initially, $165 million was granted to state and local government agencies, as well as nonprofit organizations to enact policies that would help reduce recidivism rates, increase community safety, and reduce costs spent towards corrections. A decade after implementation, more than 164,000 reentrants had already participated in programs that were funded through this act, including employment trainings, substance abuse treatment, housing, family programming, victim support and other services. In Connecticut, The Connection is a program through the CT DOC funded by the Second Chance Act, where clients are offered traditional housing, case management, and peer mentorship when transitioning from correctional facilities to society (CT DOC, 2022). Despite what appears to be a successful program, the National Institute of Justice has rated the Second Chance Act as having no effects based on a study conducted by D’Amico and Kim (2018) where they found that there was no statistical difference in the number of reconvictions, reincarcerations, and employment rates for individuals who were and were not participants in the program (NIJ, 2019). The current policies have provided a ‘what works and what doesn’t’ synopsis which can be used to inform additional policy changes or implementations regarding reentry and employment.

 

Policy Options

 

Option 1: Make the CT vocational training programs that are currently in place at 13 facilities, in all CT facilities so that individuals there may access them.

 

Vocational training programs aim to provide individuals, many of whom are currently involved in the justice system, with the opportunity to receive some form of education that will be beneficial to them when entering the workforce upon release. The CT Department of Corrections currently provides educational opportunities through Unified School District (USD #1) in 13 correctional facilities throughout the state (CT DOC, 2022). Thus, this program may be implemented in the remaining facilities in the state, so that all individuals who are serving time have the opportunity to partake in vocational training.

 

Advantages:

  • Corrections based vocational training programs has been rated promising at reducing recidivism and improving job placement by Crime Solutions (NIJ, 2014).
  • Provides a variety of education and career programming – not a “one size fits all” program.
  • Equipped to serve disadvantaged individuals including those with a physical or mental disability.

 

Disadvantages:

  • Education and vocational training does not eliminate the stigma of having a criminal record when applying for jobs.
  • Students are required to pay for their own classes, which is not always feasible.
  • Selection bias – those desiring to participate in these programs may already be more inclined to find legitimate work post-release.

 

Option 2: Alter ‘Ban the Box’ legislation to enforce consequences when not followed according to the law.

 

In 2016, the Connecticut Senate and House of Representatives General Assembly passed an act concerning individuals second-chance employment, including what is commonly referred to as the ‘ban the box’ statute. The decree prohibits employers from asking applicants if they have ever been arrested, or have received a criminal change or conviction on a preliminary application unless in very specific circumstances (Dolec & Hansen, 2020). However, it does not prohibit employers from asking in any follow-up meeting, performing a criminal background check, or asking in a speaking interview. Furthermore, there is no requirement that applications must be submitted to any municipal agency to ensure that these practices are being followed. If an applicant experienced this barred inquiry, the most they may do is report it to the Connecticut Department of Labor, which would likely have minimal, if any, consequences to the employer. As such, the policy recommendation would be to alter the legislature to provide applicants with the ability to report employers who are inquiring about criminal histories on preliminary applications and increase the state’s governmental attendance of employers to hopefully limit the frequency of criminal history requests.

           

Advantages:

  • It would not be expensive to adapt the legislature and would therefore be cost effective.
  • It could be done in a relatively quick manner.
  • It may reduce the number of preliminary questions regarding a person’s previous convictions, potentially allowing applicants further opportunity to present themselves to employers.
  • It may discourage employers from asking these questions due to formal repercussions.

 

Disadvantages:

  • It does not prevent employers from obtaining criminal histories in follow-up interviews.
  • Employers would still be able to ask about criminal histories during preliminary, in-person interviews (i.e., if an individual walked into a business and asked for an application)
  • Absence of this information does not automatically equate to employers “thinking the best” about applicants.
  • Employers may substitute race and ethnicity for criminal history furthering issues within employee discrimination (Dolec & Hansen 2020).

 

Option 3: Development and implementation of an outreach program where former offenders and employers can network.

 

Rather than highlight the literature that suggests that many employers have negative preconceived notions about those who are incarcerated, it is instead suggested that there is a focus on connecting individuals who are actively looking for legitimate work to employers who are willing to hire those with a record.

 

Advantages:

  • A cost-effective solution for potential employees who are looking for work.
  • Promotes opportunity for those who are hiring to speak with other individuals who have had successful hiring experiences with individuals who have been formerly incarcerated.
  • Promotes opportunity for formerly incarcerated individuals to network, learn what hiring managers are looking for in employees.
  • The outreach would be the ‘first step’ – it wouldn’t leave the entire employment process to those reintegrating.

 

Disadvantages:

  • Relies on employers who already open to or willing to hire a formerly incarcerated individual.
  • May not be cost effective for employers as they may have to take time away from working to attend any event.
  • May be difficult to gain publicity so that those who are willing to participate know of its existence.

 

Policy Recommendation

 

Successful re-entry outcomes, specifically those that end with formerly incarcerated individuals obtaining legitimate employment, improve the safety of our community, reduce mass incarceration numbers, and strengthen the economy (Bahr et al., 2005; Bowman & Travis, 2012; Esparza, 2018). However, many of the programs and policies that exist regarding employment services for those with criminal record aim to address discriminatory practices such as removal of questions pertaining to criminal histories. Additionally, others often attempt to provide incarcerated individuals with vocational and/or educational opportunity so that following release they may be more attractive to hiring individuals. While the intention behind these policies are often admirable, they may come with unintentional consequences. Policies like ban the box might perpetuate racially discriminatory practices, as well as lower rates of employment long-term for members of minority groups (Dolec & Hansen, 2020). An increase in vocational and educational training programs across various sites may provide incarcerated individuals with the presence of these programs in the facility in which they are currently housed, but that does not automatically equate to accessibility. Individuals are required to pay for own their own classes (CT DOC, 2022) and even with certifications of completion, hiring managers often have preconceived ideas pertaining to the behaviors and attitudes of former offenders (Atkin & Armstrong, 2013; Hirschfield & Piquero, 2010; Kuhn, 2019). I argue that the root of issues regarding formerly incarcerated offenders finding legitimate work stems from hiring managers apprehensions. Therefore, I would recommend that Connecticut legislators should move implement policy option 3 to mitigate apprehension towards those with criminal records, hopefully increasing opportunity for work.

 

There exists a large amount of literature evaluating the barriers to unemployment that formerly incarcerated individuals face. Much of that literature highlights the negative perceptions that hiring employers have regarding the attitudes, behaviors, trustworthiness, and overall employability of ex-convicts. Preconceived ideologies of whether a former offender would be a good employee are often influenced by personal experiences, the crime they have committed, (Martin et al., 2020), and amount of time since a person was released (Lindsey, 2022). Willingness to hire a former offender can be influenced by the age of the employer (Atkin & Armstrong, 2013), and whether the candidate applied online, or in person (Decker et al., 2015). Kuhn (2019) found that the stigma of having a criminal history was the largest barrier to employment, when compared to other types of employment-related stigmas, despite the fact that it is not predictive of worker performance (Lundquist et al., 2018). Implementation of a program that addresses these core issues may help to combat difficulties that formerly incarcerated persons encounter when searching for meaningful employment.

 

Advantages and Challenges

 

No policy will exist without its setbacks, and one must consider the challenges regarding this prior to implementation. Arguably the largest issue arises when one considers that the basis of a policy such as this one, is that it is dependent upon employers who are already open to hiring someone who has been formerly incarcerated. Literature suggests that employers exhibit general openness towards hiring ex-convicts (Atkin & Armstrong, 2013; Graffam et al., 2008), but many may be hesitant to ‘take the first step’ potentially preferring those who are applying to show initiative. A program in which those who are actively looking for employment have the opportunity to meet with those who are willing to hire allows for that initiative to be exhibited. Although a program such of this is reliant on employers who are open to hiring former offenders, we must also consider the existence of employers who actively search to hire members of this group but struggle to for some reason. Studies suggest some employers show an overall willingness or enthusiasm to hire, but experienced obstacles when attempting to reach these populations. (Atkin & Armstrong, 2013).

 

Not only does a program such as this support the development of an employer/employee connection, but it may also alleviate the self-stigma that incarcerated individuals may feel regarding their record. Applying to jobs can be a daunting process in and of itself, but the stress may be amplified when applying with a criminal record, especially when one does not know an employer’s perception of those with records. Entering a situation in which a former offender is aware they will be meeting with individuals who are open to hiring may alleviate this pressure. This may also be a cost-effective solution because not only does it provide opportunity for employment which helps with economic growth, but it doesn’t require hiring and payment of educators like a vocational training program might.

 

Unfortunately, there is little evidence of a program of this kind. However, similar evidence-based programs may be linked to this one to inform a prospective success rate. For example, ‘Job Corps’ is rated as a promising program in which an outreach program targets economically disadvantaged juveniles to develop academic and vocational training (Schochet et al., 2001). The Minnesota EMPLOY program was rated promising at reducing recidivism when reentrants received assistance with finding and maintaining employment in and out of the prison system (Duwe, 2015). This may highlight the importance of helping individuals navigate the process of reentry, specifically regarding employment. It is important to remember that finding legitimate employment is not a perfect solution to the issue of recidivism. However, when individuals are denied employment opportunities due to their past, the already intimidating process of reintegration is exacerbated, and it is our duty to address it in meaningful ways.

 

Annotated Bibliography

 

Antenangeli, L., & Durose, M. R. (2021, September). Recidivism of prisoners released in 24 states in 2008: A 10-year follow-up period (2008-2018). U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics. [Special Report]. https://bjs.ojp.gov/BJS_PUB/rpr24s0810yfup0818/Web%20content/508%20compliant%20PDFs

 

This report highlights key facts pertaining to recidivism in 24 states across the US, 10 years after individuals were released. About 66% of prisoners released in 2008 were arrested in 3 years, and 82% arrested by year 10, consistent with other rates of recidivism in the US.

 

Atkin, C. A., & Armstrong, G. S. (2013). Does the concentration of parolees in a community impact employer attitudes toward the hiring of ex-offenders? Criminal Justice Policy Review, 24(1), 71-93. https://doi.org/10.1177/0887403411428005

 

This article addresses the employer perspectives of formerly incarcerated individuals and their willingness to hire them in the current labor market (circa 2010). The survey and follow-up phone calls occurred in 12 zip codes that typically employed parolees, and were sent out in high and low parolee concentration areas. Results indicated that the number of parolees did not influence willingness to hire, but severity of conviction did. 

 

Augustine, D. (2019). Working around the law: Navigating legal barriers to employment during reentry. Law & Social Inquiry, 44(3), 726-751.

 

This journal article discusses the legal double bind that formerly incarcerated individuals often find themselves in, through no fault of their own. Required to find work, either for parole requirements or general necessity, but prevented due to their record, the researcher conducted qualitative interviews with individuals possessing felonies to highlight the thin line of law abidance and defiance.

 

Bahr, S. J., Armstrong, A. H., Gibbs, B. G., Harris, P. E., & Fisher, J. K. (2005). The reentry process: How parolees adjust to release from prison. Fathering: A Journal of Theory, Research & Practice about Men as Fathers3(3), 243-265. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Benjamin-Gibbs-5/publication/255606267_The_Reentry_Process_How_Parolees_Adjust_to_Release_from_Prison/links/5638cc1e08ae78d01d3a0231/The-Reentry-Process-How-Parolees-Adjust-to-Release-from-Prison.pdf

 

51 parolees and were interviewed 3 times over three months, and were tracked for 6 months after they had been released from prison. 19 parole officers were interviewed as well regarding the parole and reentry process. 10 of the 51 individuals recidivated and were resentenced, the study revealed which aspects of support, employment, and associations had an influence on recidivism.

 

Berg, M. T., & Huebner, B. M. (2011). Reentry and the ties that bind: An examination of social ties, employment, and recidivism. Justice quarterly28(2), 382-410.

 

This article examines the relationship between former offenders’ recidivism rates, and their relationship to employment and various social ties. Results suggested that individuals who were employed and had strong familial ties were less likely to recidivate. Additionally, individuals who had strong ties were more likely to find and maintain employment. Finally, those with a history of unemployment had a strong negative effect on post release employment, but this was moderated by strong familial ties.

 

Bowman, S. W., & Travis Jr., R. (2012). Prisoner reentry and recidivism according to the formerly incarcerated and reentry service providers: A verbal behavior approach. Behavior Analysist Today, 13(3-4), 9-19. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0100726

 

Using the psychological theory of verbal behavior, posited by Skinner (1957), this article highlights the personal and emotional aspects that occur when an individual recidivates. Furthermore, discusses the financial and social costs that community members experience. Using focus groups, the authors highlight the perspectives of former inmates on the reentry system; what it’s like and how it can be improved.

 

Bureau of Justice Assistance (2018, April). The Second Chance Act. U. S. Department of Justice, National Reentry Resource Center. [Fact Sheet]. https://bja.ojp.gov/library/publications/second-chance-act-fact-sheet

 

The infographic of the Second Chance Act provides facts pertaining to the grant program from 2009 to 2018. This includes information pertaining to funding amounts, statistics on number of individuals who have utilized various aspects of the program and various programs that are available in each state.

 

Cerda, J. A., Stenstrom, D. M., & Curtis, M. (2015). The role of type of offense and work qualifications on perceived employability of former offenders. American Journal of Criminal Justice, 40(2), 317-335. https://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1007/s12103-014-9244-8

 

This study was interested in which characteristics of former offenders influenced an individual’s perceived employability. Applications were manipulated with varying offenses and work qualifications, with participants assuming the role of hiring manager and indicating what they deem as influential. Results indicate moderating effect on characteristics pertaining to the offender, and a mediation effect on perceived employability skills. 

 

Connecticut Department of Corrections (2022). Unified School District #1 2021-2022 [Annual Report]. https://portal.ct.gov/-/media/DOC/Pdf/USD1/USD1-Annual-Report-21_22.pdf

 

This document from the CT DOC reports USD#1 statistics for the 2021-2022 year. Included are the educational services provided, enrollment numbers by various demographics, and statistics of vocational and employment status post release and graduation of the program.

 

D’Amico, R., & Kim, H. (2018). An Evaluation of Seven Second Chance Act Adult Demonstration Programs: Findings at 30 Months. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice.

 

D’Amico and Kim evaluated the effectiveness of the Second Chance Act utilizing 30 months as length of impact. Comparison between program users and non-users showed that there were no statically significant differences between participants and non-participants regarding rates of reconviction, rates of reincarceration and rates of employment.  

 

Decker, S. H., Ortiz, N., Spohn, C., & Hedberg, E. (2015). Criminal stigma, race, and ethnicity: The consequences of imprisonment for employment. Journal of Criminal Justice, 43, 108-121. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jcrimjus.2015.02.002

 

This article addressed race, ethnicity, and previous time served when individuals sought employment post-release. Additionally the authors evaluated the various effects demographics had on employment opportunities when applying online or in-person.  

 

Dolec, J. L., & Hansen, B. (2020). The unintended consequences of “Ban the Box”: Statistical discrimination and employment outcomes when criminal histories are hidden. Journal of Labor Economics, 38(2), 321-374. https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/full/10.1086/705880

 

This article looks at the consequences of “ban the box” legislation, which was a movement created to help former offenders attain employment without disclosing their criminal history on initial applications. Despite its well-intentioned implementation, research shows that it can decrease probably of employment for minority groups, as employers sometimes use race as a replacement for criminal record.

 

Duwe, G. (2015). The benefits of keeping idle hands busy: An outcome evaluation of a prisoner reentry employment program." Crime & Delinquency, 61(4):559–86. https://doi.org/10.1177/0011128711421653

 

Duwe’s evaluation of the Minnesota EMPLOY program was utilized by Crime Solutions to determine a promising effect. Individuals who participated in the EMPLOY program were less likely to recidivate (rearrest, reconviction, and reincarceration) and were found to have overall higher secure employment within the first 12 months of release and more hours worked per quarter. There was, however, no difference in wages earned.

 

Esparza, F., N. (2018). Contributing factors to mass incarceration and recidivism.  Research Journal of Justice Studies and Forensic Science, 6(4), 56- 69. https://doi.org/10.31979/THEMIS.2018.0604.

 

This policy brief focuses on the some of the underlying factors that contribute to mass incarceration and recidivism rates. Main foci include socioeconomic disparities that are often perpetuated by racial disparities and how both of those, individually and together, contribute to struggles finding employment, aggravating the reentry process and potentially increasing incarceration numbers.  The author recommends unified mentorship programs in prisons, specifically discussing the second chance program as a way to remedy the issues with employment and recidivism.

 

Graffam, J., Shinkfield, A., & Hardcastle, L. (2008). The perceived employability of ex-prisoners and offenders. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 52(6), 673-685. https://doi.org/10.1177/0306624X0730778

 

This article includes the perceptions of general employers, employment service workers, correctional facility workers and individuals who are incarcerated when evaluating the likelihood of an individual finding and maintaining employment during the reentry process. Job skills and overall employability characteristics are discussed, and the likelihood of employment is compared to other disadvantaged groups.

 

Hirschfield, P. J., & Piquero, A. R. (2010). Normalization and legitimation: Modeling stigmatizing attitudes toward ex-offenders. Criminology, 48, 27–55. doi:10.1111/j.1745-9125.2010.00179.x

 

This article examines the attitudes and reactions towards individuals who have a criminal record. Results reveal that attitudes are influenced by personal experience with members of the group and the trust that is delegated. Results also suggest a normalization effect of incarceration and suggestions for reduction.

 

Kuhn, K. M. (2019). Is it disqualifying? Practitioner responses to criminal offenses in hiring decisions. Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, 38(5), 547-563. https://doi.org/10.1108/EDI-10-2018-0182

 

This research is comprised of two studies. The first evaluates hiring managers perceptions of an applicant based on their application with varying criminal charges and time since the conviction was made. The second study asks participants to examine criminal and non-criminal behaviors of applicants that may surface during a background check, and asks them to evaluate their attitudes towards applicants.

 

Lindsey, S. L. (2022). Dammed if you do, dammed if you don’t: How formerly incarcerated men navigate the labor market with prison credentials. Criminology, 60(3), 455-479. https://doi.org/10.1111/1745-9125.12307

 

The author utilizes 50 qualitative interviews to reveal issues with the ‘prison credential dilemma,’ regarding the contradictory evidence that prison credentials (signal of desistance and employability) have when reentrants seek employment. Former offenders concealed the credentials on applications but used it in in-person interviews as a diversion technique away from being in prison.

 

Lockwood, S. K., Nally, J. M., Ho, T., & Knutson, K. (2015). Racial disparities and similarities in post-release recidivism and employment among ex-prisoners with a different level of education. Journal of Prison Education and Reentry2(1), 16-31.

 

This study is a 5-year follow up study examining the racial disparities of former offenders who are reintegrating. Although a racialized components to employment were found, the study also highlights that education level and employment were the most important attainments regarding recidivism refrainment, and formerly incarcerated individuals who were able to find employment were less likely to be able to sustain it.

 

Lohman, J. S. (1994, January 19). Employment Discrimination Based on Prior Conviction of a Crime. The Connecticut General Assembly. [OLR Research Report]. https://www.cga.ct.gov/PS94/rpt/olr/htm/94-R-0201.htm

 

This report summarizes the Connecticut legislature of Section 46a-80, in which it became illegal for employers to refuse to hire someone solely on the basis that they had been previously convicted of a crime. The report indicates the three circumstances in which conviction of a crime is pertinent to the application and the state’s overall policy on hiring previously convicted individuals.

 

Lundquist, J. H., Pager, D., & Strader, E. (2018). Does a criminal past predict worker performance? Evidence from one of America’s largest employers. Social Forces, 96(3). 1039-1068. https://doi.org/10.1093/sf/sox092

 

This systematic assessment of former felon’s employment performance tracked 1.3 million former and non-offenders through the military from 2002 to 2009. Individuals with records experienced promotions more quickly than those without a record, but were also more likely to commit an offense while in the military and suffer a work-related death. This is suggested to be related to the increased frequency of former offenders’ assignments to combat positions.

 

Martin, T. E., Huffman, A., Koons-Witt, B. A., & Brame, R. (2020). Hiring people with criminal records in South Carolina: Examining businesses’ hiring practices and views on incentives. Criminal Justice Policy Review, 31(4), 532-554. https://doi.org/10.1177/0887403419831062

 

This article focuses on the attitudes of employers when interacting with reentrants. Roughly half of employers surveyed were open to hiring an individual with a criminal record, which was influenced by individuals’ completion of educational programs and / or incentives to hire. However, businesses at large remain unaware of these incentives when considering an individual with a criminal record as an employee.

 

National Institute of Justice. (2014, May 14). Practice Profile: Corrections-Based Vocational Training Programs. Crime Solutions. [Policy Evaluation]. https://crimesolutions.ojp.gov/ratedpractices/24#eb

 

Three meta-analyses of various vocational training programs were considered in determining the effectiveness of corrections-based vocational training programs. All three analyses found significant reduction in recidivism and improvements in employment related outcomes. Ultimately, these programs were rated as ‘promising’ indicating that they may have the intended outcomes desired.

 

National Institute of Justice. (2019, May 13). Program Profile: Second Chance Act (SCA): Adult Reentry Demonstration Programs.  Crime Solutions. [Program Evaluation]. https://crimesolutions.ojp.gov/ratedprograms/647#eo

 

The National Institute of Justice, Crime Solutions utilized one study, conducted. By D’Amico and Kim (2018) to rate the program, Second Chance Act as having no effects. The study evaluated rates of reconviction, reincarceration and employment after 30 months of program participation and found that there was no statistical difference between those who participated and those who did not.

 

Sawyer, W., & Wagner, P. (2023, March 14). Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2023. Prison Policy Initiative. [Press Release]. https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/pie2023.html

 

The press release from the prison policy initiative not only identifies statistics of mass incarceration in the United States, but also discusses the relevant intricacies related to the topic. Examples include the impact of COVID-19, how low-level offenses can have detrimental effects on individuals and misconceptions about the prison system.

 

Schochet, P. Z., Burghardt, J. A., & Glazerman, S. (2001). National Job Corps study: The impacts of Job Corps on participants’ employment and related outcomes. Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. [Program Evaluation]. https://clear.dol.gov/study/national-job-corps-study-impacts-job-corps-participants’-employment-and-related-outcomes

 

An evaluation of the program ‘Job Corps’ in which economically disadvantaged youth are targeted to receive academic education and vocational skills training. A randomized control trial in 48 states and DC revealed statistically significant and positive effects on employment, earnings, education, and training outcomes for participants and was rated as a promising program by Crime Solutions.

 

Tripodi, S. J., Kim, J. S., & Bender, K. (2010). Is employment associated with reduced recidivism? The complex relationship between employment and crime. International journal of offender therapy and comparative criminology54(5), 706-720.

 

This article examines the relationship between employment and recidivism and found that parolees who were employed experienced a longer time to reincarceration over time. Those who were able to maintain employment were associated with more crime-free time which was suggested to be an indicator of positive behavior change.

 

Visher, C., Debus, S., & Yahner, J. (2008, October). Employment after prison: A longitudinal study of releases in three states. Urban Institute Justice Policy Center. [Research Brief]. https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/32106/411778-Employment-after-Prison-A-Longitudinal-Study-of-Releasees-in-Three-States.PDF

 

This research brief focuses on how the challenges that individuals reentering face, specially pertaining to finding meaningful employment. It also explores general aspects of reintegration and returning home, as well as the influences of finding work.

 

U.S. Parole Commission, (2022, October 4). General Questions: What is Parole? U.S. Department of Justice. https://www.justice.gov/uspc/frequently-asked-questions#general

 

The US parole commission provides succinct information on general frequently asked questions pertaining to parole in the US. It also is a resource for those who may be interested in applying or helping someone else apply for parole, explains how parole hearings occur, how decisions are made, and how to appeal those decisions. Finally it discusses what happens after a parolee is released.

 

Kylie McCarthy, University of New Haven

Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

It is well-established that finding and maintaining employment has been correlated with recidivism outcomes for formerly incarcerated offenders (Lockwood et al., 2015; Tripodi et al., 2010). However, in the United States, it is estimated that more than 30% of individuals who are released from prison are never able to find employment (Lockwood et al., 2015). Current literature suggests this could be due to the stigmatizations that follow one with a criminal background, limited work experiences, or inadequate educational training. Previous policies focus on vocational training programs to help individuals become more marketable, or removing job application questions regarding criminal history. Although these policies exist in an attempt to remedy the issues regarding previously incarcerated individuals finding and maintaining employment, they have either been deemed unsuccessful, or come with unintended consequences. 

 

Despite previous policy attempts to aid formerly incarcerated individuals during reentry, it is a challenging process, particularly when one is seeking employment. This brief suggests a shift away from altering applications or providing vocational trainings, toward focusing on an issue that has yet to be addressed. This issue is the gap that exists with employers who are willing and able to hire those with a criminal record, but are unable to find contacts with formerly incarcerated individuals who are seeking legitimate employment. The policy recommendation presented is the creation of an outreach program in which these two groups of people are able to connect. This recommendation addresses, in a new way, how CT legislators can assist formerly incarcerated individuals with finding and maintaining legitimate employment during the reentry process. Overall, the aim is to reduce recidivism and crime rates, through connecting employers and potential employees in a cost-efficient and beneficial way.

 

Reentry, Recidivism, and Employment

 

The United States leads the world in number of incarcerated individuals, with nearly two million people currently serving time (Sawyer & Wagner, 2023). As such, there is a sizeable population reentering daily. Reentry is defined as the transition that formerly incarcerated individuals experience as they move from prison or jail back into society (Antenangeli & Durose, 2021). A person’s success during this transition is important for personal, emotional, social, and economic reasons (Bahr et al., 2005; Bowman & Travis, 2012) but is also vital as failed reentry may result in recidivism which could lead to reincarceration. Addressing the issue of recidivism is largely pertinent in the US justice system, as upwards of 80% of formerly incarcerated persons across 24 states were arrested a second time within 10 years of release, with 43% of these individuals experiencing rearrest within one year (Antenangeli & Durose, 2021). A large majority of individuals are released on parole, serving some period of their sentence in society under various conditions (U.S. Parole Commission, 2022). Although criteria for parole may differ by state or offense type, obtaining legitimate employment is a consistent aspect and often, desire, for many individuals.

 

There has been a longstanding relationship between employment, recidivism, and reentry. Researchers evaluating recidivism have suggested that employment is pertinent to successful reintegration, especially when combined with various positive social ties (Bahr et al., 2005; Berg & Huebner, 2011). Social ties may come from family or friends, or be introduced in work environments. Despite the consensus on the importance of attaining employment, the fact that a majority of individuals had stable employment prior to incarceration (Visher et al, 2008), and the desire from many individuals to work, there are many challenges that one faces during this process. This comes not only from the minds of researchers and legislators, but former offenders themselves, as many have revealed that they believe this to be the most difficult part of reentry (Augustine, 2019).

 

The stigmatization that comes with having time-served is arguably the most detrimental aspect of having a criminal record. The stigmas that exist often surround being labeled as someone who exhibits bad behavior that will transfer to their status as an employee (Hirschfield & Piquero, 2010). This perception from hiring managers is further damaging when individuals have felony charges compared to misdemeanors. One study indicated that despite general willingness to hire an ex-offender, more than 80% of employers rescinded this notion when the offense was violent in nature (Atkin & Armstrong, 2013), regardless of previous work experience or qualifications (Cerda et al., 2015). Coupled with this stigma is the issue of limited education and work experience that those who have served time often incur due to the circumstances of the prison system (Cerda et al., 2015; Visher et al., 2008). Furthermore, Graffam et al. (2008) highlighted that employers were less likely to hire offenders than most other disadvantaged groups. The combination of these things makes it very difficult for formerly incarcerated individuals to find legitimate work, notwithstanding the evidence that it is a pertinent aspect of successful reintegration.

 

Pre-Existing Policies

 

In 1994, the Connecticut General Assembly passed Sec. 46a-80 as part of the human rights, anti-discrimination law, which states that employers cannot refuse to hire someone based solely on whether they have been formerly convicted (Lohman, 1994). However, employers can reject applicants with a criminal record if they believe that the candidate is inapt due to the nature of the conviction and its relevance to the job, their current rehabilitation status, and time since release. Although the law intends to prevent discrimination of convicted offenders, the ambiguity leaves employers with the power to potentially discriminate in inconspicuous ways.

 

In April of 2008, the 2nd Chance Act was passed by Congress (BJA, 2018). Initially, $165 million was granted to state and local government agencies, as well as nonprofit organizations to enact policies that would help reduce recidivism rates, increase community safety, and reduce costs spent towards corrections. A decade after implementation, more than 164,000 reentrants had already participated in programs that were funded through this act, including employment trainings, substance abuse treatment, housing, family programming, victim support and other services. In Connecticut, The Connection is a program through the CT DOC funded by the Second Chance Act, where clients are offered traditional housing, case management, and peer mentorship when transitioning from correctional facilities to society (CT DOC, 2022). Despite what appears to be a successful program, the National Institute of Justice has rated the Second Chance Act as having no effects based on a study conducted by D’Amico and Kim (2018) where they found that there was no statistical difference in the number of reconvictions, reincarcerations, and employment rates for individuals who were and were not participants in the program (NIJ, 2019). The current policies have provided a ‘what works and what doesn’t’ synopsis which can be used to inform additional policy changes or implementations regarding reentry and employment.

 

Policy Options

 

Option 1: Make the CT vocational training programs that are currently in place at 13 facilities, in all CT facilities so that individuals there may access them.

 

Vocational training programs aim to provide individuals, many of whom are currently involved in the justice system, with the opportunity to receive some form of education that will be beneficial to them when entering the workforce upon release. The CT Department of Corrections currently provides educational opportunities through Unified School District (USD #1) in 13 correctional facilities throughout the state (CT DOC, 2022). Thus, this program may be implemented in the remaining facilities in the state, so that all individuals who are serving time have the opportunity to partake in vocational training.

 

Advantages:

  • Corrections based vocational training programs has been rated promising at reducing recidivism and improving job placement by Crime Solutions (NIJ, 2014).
  • Provides a variety of education and career programming – not a “one size fits all” program.
  • Equipped to serve disadvantaged individuals including those with a physical or mental disability.

 

Disadvantages:

  • Education and vocational training does not eliminate the stigma of having a criminal record when applying for jobs.
  • Students are required to pay for their own classes, which is not always feasible.
  • Selection bias – those desiring to participate in these programs may already be more inclined to find legitimate work post-release.

 

Option 2: Alter ‘Ban the Box’ legislation to enforce consequences when not followed according to the law.

 

In 2016, the Connecticut Senate and House of Representatives General Assembly passed an act concerning individuals second-chance employment, including what is commonly referred to as the ‘ban the box’ statute. The decree prohibits employers from asking applicants if they have ever been arrested, or have received a criminal change or conviction on a preliminary application unless in very specific circumstances (Dolec & Hansen, 2020). However, it does not prohibit employers from asking in any follow-up meeting, performing a criminal background check, or asking in a speaking interview. Furthermore, there is no requirement that applications must be submitted to any municipal agency to ensure that these practices are being followed. If an applicant experienced this barred inquiry, the most they may do is report it to the Connecticut Department of Labor, which would likely have minimal, if any, consequences to the employer. As such, the policy recommendation would be to alter the legislature to provide applicants with the ability to report employers who are inquiring about criminal histories on preliminary applications and increase the state’s governmental attendance of employers to hopefully limit the frequency of criminal history requests.

           

Advantages:

  • It would not be expensive to adapt the legislature and would therefore be cost effective.
  • It could be done in a relatively quick manner.
  • It may reduce the number of preliminary questions regarding a person’s previous convictions, potentially allowing applicants further opportunity to present themselves to employers.
  • It may discourage employers from asking these questions due to formal repercussions.

 

Disadvantages:

  • It does not prevent employers from obtaining criminal histories in follow-up interviews.
  • Employers would still be able to ask about criminal histories during preliminary, in-person interviews (i.e., if an individual walked into a business and asked for an application)
  • Absence of this information does not automatically equate to employers “thinking the best” about applicants.
  • Employers may substitute race and ethnicity for criminal history furthering issues within employee discrimination (Dolec & Hansen 2020).

 

Option 3: Development and implementation of an outreach program where former offenders and employers can network.

 

Rather than highlight the literature that suggests that many employers have negative preconceived notions about those who are incarcerated, it is instead suggested that there is a focus on connecting individuals who are actively looking for legitimate work to employers who are willing to hire those with a record.

 

Advantages:

  • A cost-effective solution for potential employees who are looking for work.
  • Promotes opportunity for those who are hiring to speak with other individuals who have had successful hiring experiences with individuals who have been formerly incarcerated.
  • Promotes opportunity for formerly incarcerated individuals to network, learn what hiring managers are looking for in employees.
  • The outreach would be the ‘first step’ – it wouldn’t leave the entire employment process to those reintegrating.

 

Disadvantages:

  • Relies on employers who already open to or willing to hire a formerly incarcerated individual.
  • May not be cost effective for employers as they may have to take time away from working to attend any event.
  • May be difficult to gain publicity so that those who are willing to participate know of its existence.

 

Policy Recommendation

 

Successful re-entry outcomes, specifically those that end with formerly incarcerated individuals obtaining legitimate employment, improve the safety of our community, reduce mass incarceration numbers, and strengthen the economy (Bahr et al., 2005; Bowman & Travis, 2012; Esparza, 2018). However, many of the programs and policies that exist regarding employment services for those with criminal record aim to address discriminatory practices such as removal of questions pertaining to criminal histories. Additionally, others often attempt to provide incarcerated individuals with vocational and/or educational opportunity so that following release they may be more attractive to hiring individuals. While the intention behind these policies are often admirable, they may come with unintentional consequences. Policies like ban the box might perpetuate racially discriminatory practices, as well as lower rates of employment long-term for members of minority groups (Dolec & Hansen, 2020). An increase in vocational and educational training programs across various sites may provide incarcerated individuals with the presence of these programs in the facility in which they are currently housed, but that does not automatically equate to accessibility. Individuals are required to pay for own their own classes (CT DOC, 2022) and even with certifications of completion, hiring managers often have preconceived ideas pertaining to the behaviors and attitudes of former offenders (Atkin & Armstrong, 2013; Hirschfield & Piquero, 2010; Kuhn, 2019). I argue that the root of issues regarding formerly incarcerated offenders finding legitimate work stems from hiring managers apprehensions. Therefore, I would recommend that Connecticut legislators should move implement policy option 3 to mitigate apprehension towards those with criminal records, hopefully increasing opportunity for work.

 

There exists a large amount of literature evaluating the barriers to unemployment that formerly incarcerated individuals face. Much of that literature highlights the negative perceptions that hiring employers have regarding the attitudes, behaviors, trustworthiness, and overall employability of ex-convicts. Preconceived ideologies of whether a former offender would be a good employee are often influenced by personal experiences, the crime they have committed, (Martin et al., 2020), and amount of time since a person was released (Lindsey, 2022). Willingness to hire a former offender can be influenced by the age of the employer (Atkin & Armstrong, 2013), and whether the candidate applied online, or in person (Decker et al., 2015). Kuhn (2019) found that the stigma of having a criminal history was the largest barrier to employment, when compared to other types of employment-related stigmas, despite the fact that it is not predictive of worker performance (Lundquist et al., 2018). Implementation of a program that addresses these core issues may help to combat difficulties that formerly incarcerated persons encounter when searching for meaningful employment.

 

Advantages and Challenges

 

No policy will exist without its setbacks, and one must consider the challenges regarding this prior to implementation. Arguably the largest issue arises when one considers that the basis of a policy such as this one, is that it is dependent upon employers who are already open to hiring someone who has been formerly incarcerated. Literature suggests that employers exhibit general openness towards hiring ex-convicts (Atkin & Armstrong, 2013; Graffam et al., 2008), but many may be hesitant to ‘take the first step’ potentially preferring those who are applying to show initiative. A program in which those who are actively looking for employment have the opportunity to meet with those who are willing to hire allows for that initiative to be exhibited. Although a program such of this is reliant on employers who are open to hiring former offenders, we must also consider the existence of employers who actively search to hire members of this group but struggle to for some reason. Studies suggest some employers show an overall willingness or enthusiasm to hire, but experienced obstacles when attempting to reach these populations. (Atkin & Armstrong, 2013).

 

Not only does a program such as this support the development of an employer/employee connection, but it may also alleviate the self-stigma that incarcerated individuals may feel regarding their record. Applying to jobs can be a daunting process in and of itself, but the stress may be amplified when applying with a criminal record, especially when one does not know an employer’s perception of those with records. Entering a situation in which a former offender is aware they will be meeting with individuals who are open to hiring may alleviate this pressure. This may also be a cost-effective solution because not only does it provide opportunity for employment which helps with economic growth, but it doesn’t require hiring and payment of educators like a vocational training program might.

 

Unfortunately, there is little evidence of a program of this kind. However, similar evidence-based programs may be linked to this one to inform a prospective success rate. For example, ‘Job Corps’ is rated as a promising program in which an outreach program targets economically disadvantaged juveniles to develop academic and vocational training (Schochet et al., 2001). The Minnesota EMPLOY program was rated promising at reducing recidivism when reentrants received assistance with finding and maintaining employment in and out of the prison system (Duwe, 2015). This may highlight the importance of helping individuals navigate the process of reentry, specifically regarding employment. It is important to remember that finding legitimate employment is not a perfect solution to the issue of recidivism. However, when individuals are denied employment opportunities due to their past, the already intimidating process of reintegration is exacerbated, and it is our duty to address it in meaningful ways.

 

Annotated Bibliography

 

Antenangeli, L., & Durose, M. R. (2021, September). Recidivism of prisoners released in 24 states in 2008: A 10-year follow-up period (2008-2018). U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics. [Special Report]. https://bjs.ojp.gov/BJS_PUB/rpr24s0810yfup0818/Web%20content/508%20compliant%20PDFs

 

This report highlights key facts pertaining to recidivism in 24 states across the US, 10 years after individuals were released. About 66% of prisoners released in 2008 were arrested in 3 years, and 82% arrested by year 10, consistent with other rates of recidivism in the US.

 

Atkin, C. A., & Armstrong, G. S. (2013). Does the concentration of parolees in a community impact employer attitudes toward the hiring of ex-offenders? Criminal Justice Policy Review, 24(1), 71-93. https://doi.org/10.1177/0887403411428005

 

This article addresses the employer perspectives of formerly incarcerated individuals and their willingness to hire them in the current labor market (circa 2010). The survey and follow-up phone calls occurred in 12 zip codes that typically employed parolees, and were sent out in high and low parolee concentration areas. Results indicated that the number of parolees did not influence willingness to hire, but severity of conviction did. 

 

Augustine, D. (2019). Working around the law: Navigating legal barriers to employment during reentry. Law & Social Inquiry, 44(3), 726-751.

 

This journal article discusses the legal double bind that formerly incarcerated individuals often find themselves in, through no fault of their own. Required to find work, either for parole requirements or general necessity, but prevented due to their record, the researcher conducted qualitative interviews with individuals possessing felonies to highlight the thin line of law abidance and defiance.

 

Bahr, S. J., Armstrong, A. H., Gibbs, B. G., Harris, P. E., & Fisher, J. K. (2005). The reentry process: How parolees adjust to release from prison. Fathering: A Journal of Theory, Research & Practice about Men as Fathers3(3), 243-265. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Benjamin-Gibbs-5/publication/255606267_The_Reentry_Process_How_Parolees_Adjust_to_Release_from_Prison/links/5638cc1e08ae78d01d3a0231/The-Reentry-Process-How-Parolees-Adjust-to-Release-from-Prison.pdf

 

51 parolees and were interviewed 3 times over three months, and were tracked for 6 months after they had been released from prison. 19 parole officers were interviewed as well regarding the parole and reentry process. 10 of the 51 individuals recidivated and were resentenced, the study revealed which aspects of support, employment, and associations had an influence on recidivism.

 

Berg, M. T., & Huebner, B. M. (2011). Reentry and the ties that bind: An examination of social ties, employment, and recidivism. Justice quarterly28(2), 382-410.

 

This article examines the relationship between former offenders’ recidivism rates, and their relationship to employment and various social ties. Results suggested that individuals who were employed and had strong familial ties were less likely to recidivate. Additionally, individuals who had strong ties were more likely to find and maintain employment. Finally, those with a history of unemployment had a strong negative effect on post release employment, but this was moderated by strong familial ties.

 

Bowman, S. W., & Travis Jr., R. (2012). Prisoner reentry and recidivism according to the formerly incarcerated and reentry service providers: A verbal behavior approach. Behavior Analysist Today, 13(3-4), 9-19. https://doi.org/10.1037/h0100726

 

Using the psychological theory of verbal behavior, posited by Skinner (1957), this article highlights the personal and emotional aspects that occur when an individual recidivates. Furthermore, discusses the financial and social costs that community members experience. Using focus groups, the authors highlight the perspectives of former inmates on the reentry system; what it’s like and how it can be improved.

 

Bureau of Justice Assistance (2018, April). The Second Chance Act. U. S. Department of Justice, National Reentry Resource Center. [Fact Sheet]. https://bja.ojp.gov/library/publications/second-chance-act-fact-sheet

 

The infographic of the Second Chance Act provides facts pertaining to the grant program from 2009 to 2018. This includes information pertaining to funding amounts, statistics on number of individuals who have utilized various aspects of the program and various programs that are available in each state.

 

Cerda, J. A., Stenstrom, D. M., & Curtis, M. (2015). The role of type of offense and work qualifications on perceived employability of former offenders. American Journal of Criminal Justice, 40(2), 317-335. https://psycnet.apa.org/doi/10.1007/s12103-014-9244-8

 

This study was interested in which characteristics of former offenders influenced an individual’s perceived employability. Applications were manipulated with varying offenses and work qualifications, with participants assuming the role of hiring manager and indicating what they deem as influential. Results indicate moderating effect on characteristics pertaining to the offender, and a mediation effect on perceived employability skills. 

 

Connecticut Department of Corrections (2022). Unified School District #1 2021-2022 [Annual Report]. https://portal.ct.gov/-/media/DOC/Pdf/USD1/USD1-Annual-Report-21_22.pdf

 

This document from the CT DOC reports USD#1 statistics for the 2021-2022 year. Included are the educational services provided, enrollment numbers by various demographics, and statistics of vocational and employment status post release and graduation of the program.

 

D’Amico, R., & Kim, H. (2018). An Evaluation of Seven Second Chance Act Adult Demonstration Programs: Findings at 30 Months. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, National Institute of Justice.

 

D’Amico and Kim evaluated the effectiveness of the Second Chance Act utilizing 30 months as length of impact. Comparison between program users and non-users showed that there were no statically significant differences between participants and non-participants regarding rates of reconviction, rates of reincarceration and rates of employment.  

 

Decker, S. H., Ortiz, N., Spohn, C., & Hedberg, E. (2015). Criminal stigma, race, and ethnicity: The consequences of imprisonment for employment. Journal of Criminal Justice, 43, 108-121. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jcrimjus.2015.02.002

 

This article addressed race, ethnicity, and previous time served when individuals sought employment post-release. Additionally the authors evaluated the various effects demographics had on employment opportunities when applying online or in-person.  

 

Dolec, J. L., & Hansen, B. (2020). The unintended consequences of “Ban the Box”: Statistical discrimination and employment outcomes when criminal histories are hidden. Journal of Labor Economics, 38(2), 321-374. https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/full/10.1086/705880

 

This article looks at the consequences of “ban the box” legislation, which was a movement created to help former offenders attain employment without disclosing their criminal history on initial applications. Despite its well-intentioned implementation, research shows that it can decrease probably of employment for minority groups, as employers sometimes use race as a replacement for criminal record.

 

Duwe, G. (2015). The benefits of keeping idle hands busy: An outcome evaluation of a prisoner reentry employment program." Crime & Delinquency, 61(4):559–86. https://doi.org/10.1177/0011128711421653

 

Duwe’s evaluation of the Minnesota EMPLOY program was utilized by Crime Solutions to determine a promising effect. Individuals who participated in the EMPLOY program were less likely to recidivate (rearrest, reconviction, and reincarceration) and were found to have overall higher secure employment within the first 12 months of release and more hours worked per quarter. There was, however, no difference in wages earned.

 

Esparza, F., N. (2018). Contributing factors to mass incarceration and recidivism.  Research Journal of Justice Studies and Forensic Science, 6(4), 56- 69. https://doi.org/10.31979/THEMIS.2018.0604.

 

This policy brief focuses on the some of the underlying factors that contribute to mass incarceration and recidivism rates. Main foci include socioeconomic disparities that are often perpetuated by racial disparities and how both of those, individually and together, contribute to struggles finding employment, aggravating the reentry process and potentially increasing incarceration numbers.  The author recommends unified mentorship programs in prisons, specifically discussing the second chance program as a way to remedy the issues with employment and recidivism.

 

Graffam, J., Shinkfield, A., & Hardcastle, L. (2008). The perceived employability of ex-prisoners and offenders. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 52(6), 673-685. https://doi.org/10.1177/0306624X0730778

 

This article includes the perceptions of general employers, employment service workers, correctional facility workers and individuals who are incarcerated when evaluating the likelihood of an individual finding and maintaining employment during the reentry process. Job skills and overall employability characteristics are discussed, and the likelihood of employment is compared to other disadvantaged groups.

 

Hirschfield, P. J., & Piquero, A. R. (2010). Normalization and legitimation: Modeling stigmatizing attitudes toward ex-offenders. Criminology, 48, 27–55. doi:10.1111/j.1745-9125.2010.00179.x

 

This article examines the attitudes and reactions towards individuals who have a criminal record. Results reveal that attitudes are influenced by personal experience with members of the group and the trust that is delegated. Results also suggest a normalization effect of incarceration and suggestions for reduction.

 

Kuhn, K. M. (2019). Is it disqualifying? Practitioner responses to criminal offenses in hiring decisions. Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, 38(5), 547-563. https://doi.org/10.1108/EDI-10-2018-0182

 

This research is comprised of two studies. The first evaluates hiring managers perceptions of an applicant based on their application with varying criminal charges and time since the conviction was made. The second study asks participants to examine criminal and non-criminal behaviors of applicants that may surface during a background check, and asks them to evaluate their attitudes towards applicants.

 

Lindsey, S. L. (2022). Dammed if you do, dammed if you don’t: How formerly incarcerated men navigate the labor market with prison credentials. Criminology, 60(3), 455-479. https://doi.org/10.1111/1745-9125.12307

 

The author utilizes 50 qualitative interviews to reveal issues with the ‘prison credential dilemma,’ regarding the contradictory evidence that prison credentials (signal of desistance and employability) have when reentrants seek employment. Former offenders concealed the credentials on applications but used it in in-person interviews as a diversion technique away from being in prison.

 

Lockwood, S. K., Nally, J. M., Ho, T., & Knutson, K. (2015). Racial disparities and similarities in post-release recidivism and employment among ex-prisoners with a different level of education. Journal of Prison Education and Reentry2(1), 16-31.

 

This study is a 5-year follow up study examining the racial disparities of former offenders who are reintegrating. Although a racialized components to employment were found, the study also highlights that education level and employment were the most important attainments regarding recidivism refrainment, and formerly incarcerated individuals who were able to find employment were less likely to be able to sustain it.

 

Lohman, J. S. (1994, January 19). Employment Discrimination Based on Prior Conviction of a Crime. The Connecticut General Assembly. [OLR Research Report]. https://www.cga.ct.gov/PS94/rpt/olr/htm/94-R-0201.htm

 

This report summarizes the Connecticut legislature of Section 46a-80, in which it became illegal for employers to refuse to hire someone solely on the basis that they had been previously convicted of a crime. The report indicates the three circumstances in which conviction of a crime is pertinent to the application and the state’s overall policy on hiring previously convicted individuals.

 

Lundquist, J. H., Pager, D., & Strader, E. (2018). Does a criminal past predict worker performance? Evidence from one of America’s largest employers. Social Forces, 96(3). 1039-1068. https://doi.org/10.1093/sf/sox092

 

This systematic assessment of former felon’s employment performance tracked 1.3 million former and non-offenders through the military from 2002 to 2009. Individuals with records experienced promotions more quickly than those without a record, but were also more likely to commit an offense while in the military and suffer a work-related death. This is suggested to be related to the increased frequency of former offenders’ assignments to combat positions.

 

Martin, T. E., Huffman, A., Koons-Witt, B. A., & Brame, R. (2020). Hiring people with criminal records in South Carolina: Examining businesses’ hiring practices and views on incentives. Criminal Justice Policy Review, 31(4), 532-554. https://doi.org/10.1177/0887403419831062

 

This article focuses on the attitudes of employers when interacting with reentrants. Roughly half of employers surveyed were open to hiring an individual with a criminal record, which was influenced by individuals’ completion of educational programs and / or incentives to hire. However, businesses at large remain unaware of these incentives when considering an individual with a criminal record as an employee.

 

National Institute of Justice. (2014, May 14). Practice Profile: Corrections-Based Vocational Training Programs. Crime Solutions. [Policy Evaluation]. https://crimesolutions.ojp.gov/ratedpractices/24#eb

 

Three meta-analyses of various vocational training programs were considered in determining the effectiveness of corrections-based vocational training programs. All three analyses found significant reduction in recidivism and improvements in employment related outcomes. Ultimately, these programs were rated as ‘promising’ indicating that they may have the intended outcomes desired.

 

National Institute of Justice. (2019, May 13). Program Profile: Second Chance Act (SCA): Adult Reentry Demonstration Programs.  Crime Solutions. [Program Evaluation]. https://crimesolutions.ojp.gov/ratedprograms/647#eo

 

The National Institute of Justice, Crime Solutions utilized one study, conducted. By D’Amico and Kim (2018) to rate the program, Second Chance Act as having no effects. The study evaluated rates of reconviction, reincarceration and employment after 30 months of program participation and found that there was no statistical difference between those who participated and those who did not.

 

Sawyer, W., & Wagner, P. (2023, March 14). Mass Incarceration: The Whole Pie 2023. Prison Policy Initiative. [Press Release]. https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/pie2023.html

 

The press release from the prison policy initiative not only identifies statistics of mass incarceration in the United States, but also discusses the relevant intricacies related to the topic. Examples include the impact of COVID-19, how low-level offenses can have detrimental effects on individuals and misconceptions about the prison system.

 

Schochet, P. Z., Burghardt, J. A., & Glazerman, S. (2001). National Job Corps study: The impacts of Job Corps on participants’ employment and related outcomes. Princeton, NJ: Mathematica Policy Research, Inc. [Program Evaluation]. https://clear.dol.gov/study/national-job-corps-study-impacts-job-corps-participants’-employment-and-related-outcomes

 

An evaluation of the program ‘Job Corps’ in which economically disadvantaged youth are targeted to receive academic education and vocational skills training. A randomized control trial in 48 states and DC revealed statistically significant and positive effects on employment, earnings, education, and training outcomes for participants and was rated as a promising program by Crime Solutions.

 

Tripodi, S. J., Kim, J. S., & Bender, K. (2010). Is employment associated with reduced recidivism? The complex relationship between employment and crime. International journal of offender therapy and comparative criminology54(5), 706-720.

 

This article examines the relationship between employment and recidivism and found that parolees who were employed experienced a longer time to reincarceration over time. Those who were able to maintain employment were associated with more crime-free time which was suggested to be an indicator of positive behavior change.

 

Visher, C., Debus, S., & Yahner, J. (2008, October). Employment after prison: A longitudinal study of releases in three states. Urban Institute Justice Policy Center. [Research Brief]. https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/32106/411778-Employment-after-Prison-A-Longitudinal-Study-of-Releasees-in-Three-States.PDF

 

This research brief focuses on how the challenges that individuals reentering face, specially pertaining to finding meaningful employment. It also explores general aspects of reintegration and returning home, as well as the influences of finding work.

 

U.S. Parole Commission, (2022, October 4). General Questions: What is Parole? U.S. Department of Justice. https://www.justice.gov/uspc/frequently-asked-questions#general

 

The US parole commission provides succinct information on general frequently asked questions pertaining to parole in the US. It also is a resource for those who may be interested in applying or helping someone else apply for parole, explains how parole hearings occur, how decisions are made, and how to appeal those decisions. Finally it discusses what happens after a parolee is released.

 

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New Year, New Goals!   FEATURED NCCMH announces free online Mental Health First Aid courses ‘This is a time m...
Welcome to '24

Evidence-Based Professionals' Monthly - February 2024

| EBP Monthly
We LOVE being there for you!   FEATURED OJJDP Celebrates 50 Years of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prev...
optimism

Cognitive Behavioral Approaches

| News & Announcements
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Evidence-Based Core & Advanced Skills March 22, 2024 Start Times: 11:30 AM EST | 8:3...
Combat Police Corruption

Addressing the High Rates of Mental Health Problems and Substance Abuse among Incarcerated Women

Victoria Espinoza, University of New Haven Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash    During the last five decades, the fe...

Breaking Barriers: A Call to Connect Reentrants with Employment Opportunities

Kylie McCarthy, University of New Haven Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash It is well-established that finding and...