U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

"Targeting the "Absence" in a Desistance Framework: Balancing Risk and Rehabilitation in Mandated Criminal Background Check Employment Decisions."

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2016, $31,999)

Researchers use notions of "desistance" to conceptualize the absence of criminal justice system involvement and individual change. While most individuals eventually "age out" of the criminal justice system, it is challenging to predict who will successfully maintain desistance. One policy option is to simply wait. In the first component of my dissertation (near completion), I examine the effects of a time since last conviction policy. I find that individuals cleared to work because they surpass a 1 O year conviction-free threshold experience meaningful improvements in employment and earnings, but not recidivism. These results prompt the studies that comprise the dissertation fellowship, which ask whether there are alternative policy options to help employers identify desisters before a decade passes. I examine the desistance maintenance process through an employment lens by considering how decision makers balance risk and rehabilitation in criminal background check employment decisions. I have three main objectives: review the relevant literature to determine key factors that identify desisters; develop an initial framework in a particular decision making setting; and test this framework in a different occupational context. Employing a mixed methods approach, I will utilize two unique samples of individuals who apply for a job in New York State, are denied on the basis of a criminal record, and contest the decision. In the first study, I will use an inductive content analysis approach to analyze judicial appeal decisions for state-licensed occupations and develop an initial framework for how decision makers balance "rehabilitation" and "risk." Interviews with law clinic staff who prepare appeals will aid in fully understanding the legal and social context. In the second study, I examine a sample comprised of individuals provisionally hired to work in unlicensed positions involving direct access to patients and residents in licensed healthcare facilities (this is an extension of an ongoing partnership with the Department of Health, Division of Criminal Justice Services, and Department of Labor; NIJ grant 2012-MU-MU-0048). Using a regression-based approach, I will test which rehabilitative documents are correlated with successfully overturning a decision, and under which conditions. I will also examine which rehabilitative documents presented during the appeals process are correlated with re-arrest. The overall purpose of this dissertation is to advance theoretical knowledge of the desistance maintenance process through a decision maker lens. These studies aim to provide guidance to employers making difficult decisions and to policymakers invested in improving employment opportunities for individuals with criminal records.ca/ncf
Date Created: August 16, 2016