Employment reduces re-offending but not just any job
From an article by Econofact
A report by the Ministry of Justice concluded that ex-offenders who leave prison and who are employed are less likely to reoffend.
This correlation may lead many to think that increasing access to jobs could be the key to reducing recidivism. There have been some studies in the USA which may hone our thinking here.
1. Studies have found that individuals are less likely to reoffend if they happen to be released at a time when the local low-skilled labour market is strong and when well-paying entry-level jobs are available.
For instance, a study of the impact of local labour market conditions on criminal recidivism found that being released to an area with higher low-skilled wages significantly decreases the risk of recidivism.
A similar study that focused on California found that increases in construction and manufacturing opportunities at the time of release reduced recidivism for recently-released offenders. But other types of entry-level jobs that typically pay lower wages, such as retail or food service, did not affect recidivism.
2. People with criminal records may need help overcoming obstacles to employment e.g. the effect of a criminal record on getting a job interview.
One approach to overcoming these obstacles to employment is through transitional job programmes, which provide temporary, subsidized employment designed to transition hard-to-employ individuals (including people with criminal records) into private sector jobs. These programmes typically provide 6 months of paid, full-time work at a non-profit organization, with an emphasis on improving soft skills such as reliability and interpersonal skills. Even if the programmes do not actually improve participants' skills, successful completion of the programme could provide a positive signal to employers (that is, program completion could serve a valuable screening function).
However, a number of large randomized controlled trials have measured the effects of transitional job programmes on subsequent employment and recidivism, and the results have been disappointing. The programmes do not appear to have facilitated a successful transition into private sector employment. Results on recidivism were somewhat mixed.
3. Evaluations of other employment-focused interventions have also been disappointing.
One respected employment-focused re-entry programme targeting recently-released offenders provided a variety of services to help individuals find employment in the private sector — including job readiness training, vocational training, a computer lab, and job placement services. In order to evaluate the effectiveness of the programme, participants were randomly assigned to the programme or to a group that received a list of community resources and a free meal. The study found no significant effects of the re-entry programme on employment, recidivism, or housing stability.
How do we reconcile these results with the research showing that being released during a strong low-skilled labour market reduces recidivism?
a) A key takeaway of those studies is that access to good jobs — not just any jobs — reduces recidivism. That is, only jobs in industries that pay well, such as construction, seem to be effective.
b) It may be that transitional jobs pay too little to prevent an individual's return to criminal activity.
c) Another possible reason that targeted, employment-focused re-entry programmes have failed to reduce recidivism may be that working alongside other recently-released offenders has negative peer effects that getting a private sector job avoids.
d) And finally, it could be that stronger labour markets reduce recidivism by making the friends and family of recently-released individuals better off. That is, those with criminal records might not be getting jobs themselves, but their networks might be better able to support them when the local economy is thriving.
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From an article by Econofact, 31/07/2018