Community Supervision and Employment

AuthorJesse Capece
Published date01 May 2022
Date01 May 2022
Subject MatterOvercoming Barriers to Living-Wage Employment
ANNALS, AAPSS, 701, May 2022 61
DOI: 10.1177/00027162221112565
Supervision and
Evidence suggests that steady employment is a key
component in reducing the likelihood that people
under community supervision will return to prison.
Largely unexplored, however, is the extent to which
employment outcomes and self-perceptions of employ-
ability among people under community supervision are
affected by stipulations mandated upon release from
prison. These stipulations include measures like visits
with a probation office, court appearances, or drug and
mental health treatments. This article review research
on the relationship between the stipulations of com-
munity supervision and employment outcomes. It pre-
sents evidence from a new study that explores
relationships between release stipulations, probation
officer support, feelings of employability, and employ-
ment outcomes. The new evidence suggests that there
is a negative relationship between community supervi-
sion and employment outcomes and perceptions of
employability. I argue for alternative policies that could
productively reshape community supervision.
Keywords: reentry; probation; employment; employ-
ability; incarceration
After Charles was released from prison, his
brother helped him get a job with a painting
contractor. Charles was excited; summer was
coming, and the contractor had many houses to
paint during the warm months. Charles knew,
however, that his probation required much of
him. Each week, he had to meet with his proba-
tion officer. Twice a month, he had to physically
appear in court to pay the various court fees,
restitution, and back child support he owed.
Jesse Capece is an associate professor at the Rhode
Island College School of Social Work. His research
explores how community supervision impacts the
employment opportunities of people who have been
incarcerated. Prior to working in academia, Dr. Capece
worked as a direct practitioner in Providence, RI, serv-
ing people who were or had been in prison.
Charles was also mandated to weekly mental health counseling; and because he
had marijuana in his pocket when he was arrested, he was sentenced to an out-
patient drug treatment program that met weekly. The drug possession charge
also made Charles eligible for random drug tests. Since missing any of these
engagements could have landed Charles back in prison, he disclosed his situation
to his new employer. Discouraged, the employer said he needed people who
could show up all day, every day, and without interruption. The contractor told
Charles that he would not hire him after all.
Charles’s story comes from my time as a social worker, when I worked in direct
service with people who were incarcerated. In many ways, Charles’ experience
was not unique. Most of the almost five million people on probation or parole in
the United States (Bureau of Justice Statistics 2020) must attend a host of man-
dated appointments. These can include regular meetings with probation or
parole officers; court appearances to pay fees, restitution, child support, and/or
arrearages; substance use treatment; mental health counseling; and participation
in specialized counseling (like domestic violence or anger management). Failure
to adhere to this constellation of stipulations can lead to a probation/parole viola-
tion and, as a result, a return to prison. Yet for many people like Charles, these
stipulations can interfere with the ability to find or keep a job.
This article reviews research on this understudied but critical issue: the rela-
tionship between the stipulations of community supervision and employment
outcomes. Since little evidence suggests that extensive stipulations reduce recidi-
vism, I formulate alternative policy recommendations to productively reshape
community supervision.
Supervision, Stipulations, and Employment
Of the nearly two million people incarcerated in the United States, an estimated
97 percent will be released (Bureau of Justice Statistics 2020). The vast majority
of these individuals will transfer immediately to either probation—where some-
one is mandated to additional community supervision following a prison sen-
tence); or parole—where someone leaves prison early and finishes their prison
sentence outside of the physical building (they may then transition to probation).
They will join the 3.6 million people already on probation—some of whom were
sentenced directly to probation without ever being incarcerated—or the 875,000
people already on parole (Pew Charitable Trusts 2018).
The ostensible purpose of this expansive system of supervision is to keep peo-
ple out of brick-and-mortar prison facilities. Community supervision aims to pre-
vent recidivism by helping individuals thrive in their community—a simple goal,
but one that can contain several objectives. As a result, community supervision
often involves many mandates, each of which theoretically contributes to the indi-
vidual’s ability to thrive. Someone who struggles with a substance use disorder, for
example, may be mandated to drug treatment; someone living with mental health
disruptions may be mandated to therapy or treatment; someone who has

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