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Labor Force Participation and Crime Among Serious and Violent Former Prisoners

NCJ Number
Date Published
May 2015
181 pages
Using data from the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative (n=1,575), this dissertation examined whether having a job or being involved in employment programs reduced recidivism among serious and violent former prisoners.

Overall, the path-model results did not provide any evidence that stable employment reduced criminal activity among serious and violent former prisoners. Findings show that employment programs in U.S. prisons had limited effects on the likelihood that participants would maintain employment and avoid recidivism after their release. Male prisoners recruited into the Serious and Violent Offender Reentry Initiative faced multiple barriers to employment before entering prison, including extensive criminal records, low educational achievement, and limited work experience. Of the former prisoners with similar demographics, criminal records, employment histories, and health status, employment program participants were slightly more likely than education participants and nonparticipants to maintain stable employment after release. Participants in the employment programs had lower rates of re-arrest during the first 9 months after release. After this period, however, there were no significant differences in job stability and criminal activity between employment program participants and nonparticipants. Engagement in crime during the early months of release reduced labor-force participation, limited men's ability to obtain higher quality employment, and increased their financial needs and psychological distress. In contrast, stable employment led to improved job quality and reduced financial needs over time; however, employment did not reduce men's later involvement in criminal activity. Thus, the results cast doubt on theories of crime that presuppose a causal association between work and crime. 18 figures, 16 tables, 155 references, and appended supplementary information

Date Published: May 1, 2015