'Knowledge is power': the importance of postrelease job placement service to inmate success.

Author:Vann, Anthony O.
Position:EDUCATION AND TRAINING - North Carolina Correction Enterprises

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, more than 10,000 inmates are released from America's state and federal prisons every week, only to arrive on the doorsteps of their communities. Roughly more than 650,000 inmates get released from prison every year. Continued studies show that approximately two-thirds of these individuals will likely be rearrested within three years of release. (1)

Unfortunately, these high recidivism rates are prevalent across the country, which deems it a national issue. At this point, one can safely say, "Houston, we have a problem!" While the jury may still be out on the root cause of this issue, a common denominator between successful reentry and recidivism is employment. Finding employment post-incarceration is an extremely important step in an inmate's reentry. Yet ex-inmates have reported this as one of the most difficult tasks they've had to face. This alone constitutes a plethora of variables surrounding the situation. The National Institute of Justice reports that 60 to 75 percent of ex-inmates remain jobless up to a year after release. (2) It is important for an ex-inmate to find gainful, substantial employment within the first 90 days of release. However, only about one-fourth of the released individuals actually meet this threshold of time.

Circumstances surrounding employment vary by conditions as simple as to which neighborhood an ex-inmate may return. A study by researchers Jeffrey Morenoff and David Harding of the University of Michigan examined the correlation between employment and recidivism as it relates to neighborhoods. (3) The results showed that returning to a disadvantaged neighborhood was associated with higher risks of absconding and recidivism. This situation often presents fewer employment opportunities and lower wages. Offenders returning to more affluent neighborhoods, however, were associated with a lower risk of being rearrested or absconding. These communities often have a more positive labor market, which offers greater employment opportunities and wages. In the end, the researchers concluded that, due to uncontrolled variables, they lacked sufficient evidence to define absolutely the correlation between the types of neighborhoods offenders were released to. However, the overall finding in this study did suggest that employment substantially reduced the risk of recidivism outcomes. (4)

Employer hesitation

In this information age, advances in technology are made on a daily basis. Needless to say, one can research backgrounds of individuals with very little difficulty. The information is readily available. But what does this mean for ex-inmates in the workforce? According to the Society for Human Resource Management, more than 80 percent of U.S. employers perform criminal background checks on prospective employees. (5) In 2006, the states had nearly 81 million criminal records on file, 74 million of which were in automated databases. Every year, these databases record another 14 million arrests. (6)

Considering this information, imagine a...

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