Training and preparing inmates for post prison employment.

Author:Wells, Doris
Position:NIJ Update

In his Research for the Real World presentation, (1) based on a study funded by the National Institute of Justice on race and ethnic-ity, (2) Scott Decker indicated that he and fellow researchers found that a prison record has a negative effect on employment, especially for the high-risk populations of blacks and Hispanics. To counteract this, Decker and his fellow researchers recommend that correctional institutions should train and prepare inmates for the challenges of the current employment environment. In the three-year study that included both online and in-person application processes and an employer survey, Decker and his fellow researchers' goal was to determine the effect of a prison sentence on employment prospects. The researchers wanted to know whether the effect of a prison sentence on someone's future employment was affected by race, ethnicity and sex. Consistent with prior findings, (3) the researchers found differences by race and ethnicity, with black and Hispanic ex-offenders generally faring worse than white ex-offenders. The differences were more significant for the in-person interview process, but nonetheless, the researchers found that a prison record has a negative effect on job prospects, particularly in the low-skill food service sector, where ex-offenders are likely to seek employment during reentry. The employer survey revealed that employers strongly preferred hiring individuals with no prior criminal justice record. The employers associated a prison record with a number of negative work-related characteristics, including tardiness and the inability to get along with co-workers.


The researchers used the online and in-person application processes and the employer survey to assess whether job applicants--matched by race/ethnicity (black, Hispanic or white), gender and prior record (prison term or no prison term)--received a call back from a potential employer. More than 6,000 online and 60 in-person applications were submitted for entry-level jobs. A survey was conducted with 49 employers who participated in the in-person process. Both online and in-person groups had six different pairs of job applicants: black men, black women, Hispanic men, Hispanic women, white men and white women. One member of each pair had a prison record included on their resume. In every other respect, the resumes were identical.

Prominent Findings

The analyses revealed important gender differences in both online and in-person...

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