Individuals returning from incarceration each year live in virtually every zip code in the country. Most ex-offenders have every intention of becoming productive, tax paying citizens, and no intention of returning to the penal system. However ex-offenders are largely on their own when returning to our communities. They are often estranged from families and friends, and are increasingly faced with tremendous challenges upon their release. Most are simply unprepared for the challenges they will encounter in the attempt to restore normalcy to their lives – finding a home, becoming employed, paying bills and reconciling family ties among others.
With their lives in upheaval, many ex-offenders unfortunately feel compelled to return to their criminal behavior. Recidivism – the return of an ex-offender to prison – often occurs and the entire community pays for it, both financially and through sacrifice of personal security. The best way to prevent recidivism is to put ex-offenders to work. Each year there is a substantial large group that enters the workforce. extra group that enters the workforce. They’re not immigrants or our own teens coming of age, they are ex-offenders. Between 600,000 and 700,000 inmates are released annually, two thirds of them will be rearrested within three years after their release,” (Anderson, D. 2008) considering the amount of money it takes to house an inmate in prison, the costs could be staggering. Over half of those that are released from prison or are currently on probation don’t have jobs.
“Most professionals agree that reducing recidivism is the key to alleviating the stress on our overburdened correctional system. “(Anderson, D. 2008)” Given the high cost of crime and incarceration, almost any program that reduces recidivism will pass social benefit-cost tests. ( Freeman, R. 2003). “Obviously, if 65-70% of those released are committing more crimes, the legal system is failing each and every one of us. But, to solely point the focus on that “piece of the puzzle” would be unfair. We know correctional facilities are overburdened with inmate population at/above capacity. ” (Source Blogger, 2011) “The potential impact on parole reform and the rest of the criminal justice system could be staggering. As an example, if the study finds that for $5,000 we can keep someone from returning to an approximate $40,000 a year bed in a prison, the cost savings to states could be substantial.
Moreover, the reduction in crime and fighting parole violations would also be significant. ”(America Works, 2009). In recently speaking with Judge Walter Rice, United States District Court Judge and co-chair on the Montgomery county re-entry program, he stated, “Once a person has paid his or her ‘debt to society’ he or she shouldn’t be judged on their past, but considered for who they are today and the potential that they have. ” All that most ex-offenders want is a chance to be “normal” citizens. To earn their way, take care of their families, and stay free. Unfortunately, finding a job—already a difficult process for many—is an even steeper uphill battle for ex-offenders. In addition to financial barriers, transportation issues, and mental and physical health concerns, ex-offenders face the stigma of their records, and employers often see them as too risky to hire. ”(Anderson, D. 2008) Many ex-offenders get automatically discouraged when filling out job applications as soon as they see, “have you ever been convicted of a felony? ” Of course, it does say that answering yes doesn’t automatically disqualify you from employment, many however disagree.
According to a study done by sociologist Devah Pager in 2003 applicants with a prison record received significantly fewer callbacks than those without. According to another study, “only 12. 5% of employers say they would accept an applicant with a criminal record. Ex-offenders have to work extra hard to convince employers that they are dependable and committed and eager to learn on the job. To do so, ex-offenders need coaching on job search techniques specific to their needs and circumstances. ” (Anderson, D. 008) One could argue that those with a criminal history aren’t that big a deal, that they don’t make up enough of the population to matter, however, “sixty-five million Americans—or one in four adults—have a criminal record. But employers—including major companies like Bank of America, Omni Hotel, and Domino's Pizza—routinely post job ads on Craigslist that explicitly exclude such applicants, according to a new report conducted by the National Employment Law Center (NELP), a labor-affiliated advocacy group. ” (Roth, 2011) So to have the opinion that these people don’t matter, is equivalent to dismissing one quarter of the population.
The only alternative for them is public assistance or returning to crime, either way it puts an extra burden and added strain to everyone else. The practice of not hiring those with criminal records has become widespread and almost the norm in today’s economic times. “Many employers use outside companies that specialize in background checks—a fast-growing industry—to help screen out applicants with criminal records. A 2009 investigation by the state of New York found that RadioShack, working with the background check firm ChoicePoint, created a system that asked applicants "Have you been convicted of a felony in the past 7 years? and automatically rejected anyone who answered "yes. " Because discriminating against those with criminal records disproportionately hurts African Americans, the practice may violate the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits race-based hiring discrimination. Indeed, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has said that although considering an applicant's criminal record may be acceptable on a case-by-case basis, an "absolute bar to employment" for such people is illegal.
"Candidates must be able to pass: background check (no felonies or misdemeanors)," reads one ad placed by the bailed-out banking giant Bank of America. Do not apply with any misdemeanors/felonies," warns another. And one study last year found that 92 percent of employers said they screen some or all applicants for criminal records. ”(Roth, 2011) Finding gainful employment is a difficult task, more so for African Americans, than their white counterparts, adding a criminal record into the mix makes it much harder and more disheartening for those who do. According to Pager’s study “race was clearly more important. The differences were to the point that a White job applicant with a jail record actually received more callbacks for further consideration than a Black man with no criminal record. (Schaefer, 2011)
Taking into consideration that over 52% of those released from prison each year are African American, it makes a pretty powerful case that being Black and an ex-offender is a no win situation. There has been research on a small level to provide insight of the advantages of ex-offenders being employed and productive. “In a report published in 2001, Work as a Turning Point for Criminal Offenders, Christopher Uggen and Jeremy Staff reviewed studies conducted on the role of employment in reducing recidivism. They found that “high-quality work can further reduce rates of recidivism for adult workers. Furthermore, they summarized their research as follows: “We can reach the following provisional conclusion: Post-release employment and training programs, especially those providing jobs of moderate or high quality, are particularly promising for reducing recidivism among older and drug-involved offenders. ”(America Works, 2009) To further illustrate the importance of putting ex-offenders to work, “Sampson and Laub (1993) analyzed longitudinal survey data and found that employment significantly decreased criminal behavior.
The National Supported Work Demonstration Project found strong evidence of a link between employment and recidivism. The National Supported Work Demonstration Project randomly assigned committed offenders to an experimental or control group. Those in the experimental group received career training in prison and minimum-wage jobs (in construction or the service industry) upon release. Beginning about six months after release, those in the experimental group showed a significantly lower likelihood of arrest.
The difference continued for the duration of the study (three years post release), at which point 53% of the control group had been re-arrested, compared to 42% of the experimental group. ” (Florida State University, 2006, pp. 58) Of course these numbers are by no means perfect, but it does show that employment does have a positive effect on recidivism. ” Overall, the prior research strongly suggests that employment is significantly associated with crime. Longitudinal studies have found that employment--particularly stable employment--may reduce the likelihood of crime, and the likelihood of recidivism among offender populations. (Florida State University, 2006, pp. 58) While there is a great variety in the nature of the crimes committed by ex-offenders, there is also a tremendous variety in the ex-offenders’ willingness to put their pasts behind them and play an active role in shaping their futures.
This decision must be a conscious one that includes the realization that, while a life of crime may be an easier path in life, it is not the right path. The road to engineering a person’s path in life despite the struggles and barriers before them requires perseverance and honest hard work. We know from empirical evidence that putting a parolee to work is a major factor in preventing recurring crime. ” (Anderson, D. 2008) So no matter what your opinion is on ex-offenders, we all have to agree that higher crime rates and higher taxes due to prison funding is not something we want to live with. If it makes our streets safer, and strengthens the economy, I say, let them work.
Anderson, D. (2008). Employment Crossing. Retrieved from http://www. hrcrossing. com/article/270120/Working-to-Reduce-Recidivism-Employment-as-the-Key-to-Offender-Reintegration/ America Works. 2009). Retrieved from http://webelieveamericaworks. wordpress. com/2009/04/14/work-and-reducing-recidivism-what-do-we-know/ Florida State University. (2006). 2006 Annual Report to the Florida Department of Education: Juvenile Justice Educational Enhancement Program__. Retrieved from Florida State University, website. Freeman, R. (2003). Employment Dimensions of Reentry:Understanding the Nexus between Prisoner Reentry and Work. Retrieved from http://www. urban. org/UploadedPDF/410857_Freeman. pdf Nally, J. M. , Lockwood, S. , Taiping, H. , & Knutson, K. (2012, Spring).
The Post-Release Employment and Recidivism Among Different Types of Offenders With A Different Level of Education: A 5-Year Follow-Up Study in Indiana . Justice Policy Journal, 9(1), . Retrieved from http://www. cjcj. org/files/The_Post-Release. pdf Roth, Z. (2011). Yahoo News. Retrieved from http://news. yahoo. com/blogs/lookout/help-wanted-sixty-five-million-not-apply-20110323-101739-537. html Schaefer, R. T. (2012). Racial and Ethnic Groups (13th ed. ). : Merrill Prentice Hall. Source Blogger. (2011). Reducing Recidivism Through Employment. Retrieved from http://sourceblogger. com/reducing-recidivism-through-employment/