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Improving Employment Prospects for Former Prison Inmates: Challenges and Policy

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  • Steven Raphael

Abstract

This paper analyzes the employment prospects of former prison inmates and reviews recent evaluations of reentry programs that either aim to improve employment among the formerly incarcerated or aim to reduce recidivism through treatment interventions centered on employment. I present an empirical portrait of the U.S. prison population and prison releases using nationally representative survey data. I characterize the personal traits of state and federal prison inmates, including their level of educational attainment and age as well as the health and mental health issues that occur with high frequency among this population. I then turn to the demand side of this particular segment of the U.S. labor market. Using a 2003 survey of California establishments, I characterize employers' preferences with regards to hiring convicted felons into non-managerial, non-professional jobs, the degree to which employers check criminal history records, and the incidence of legal prohibitions against hiring convicted felons. I conduct multivariate analyses of the impact of checking criminal backgrounds on the likelihood of hiring workers of difference race/gender combinations, using legal prohibition against hiring felons as an instrument for checking. Finally, I review the research evidence evaluating programmatic efforts to improve employment prospects and reduce recidivism among former prison inmates.

Suggested Citation

  • Steven Raphael, 2010. "Improving Employment Prospects for Former Prison Inmates: Challenges and Policy," NBER Working Papers 15874, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15874
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    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w15874.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. James J. Heckman & Jeffrey Smith & Nancy Clements, 1997. "Making The Most Out Of Programme Evaluations and Social Experiments: Accounting For Heterogeneity in Programme Impacts," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 64(4), pages 487-535.
    2. James J. Heckman & Jeffrey A. Smith, 1995. "Assessing the Case for Social Experiments," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(2), pages 85-110, Spring.
    3. Charles D. Mallar & Craig V. D. Thornton, 1978. "Transitional Aid for Released Prisoners: Evidence from the Life Experiment," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 13(2), pages 208-236.
    4. Sheena McConnell & Steven Glazerman, 2001. "National Job Corps Study: The Benefits and Costs of Job Corps," Mathematica Policy Research Reports 19ff8678a108410587c5dfad0, Mathematica Policy Research.
    5. Black, Dan A, 1995. "Discrimination in an Equilibrium Search Model," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 13(2), pages 309-333, April.
    6. repec:mpr:mprres:2955 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Holzer, Harry J & Raphael, Steven & Stoll, Michael A, 2006. "Perceived Criminality, Criminal Background Checks, and the Racial Hiring Practices of Employers," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 49(2), pages 451-480, October.
    8. Peter Z. Schochet & John Burghardt & Steven Glazerman, 2001. "National Job Corps Study: The Impacts of Job Corps on Participants' Employment and Related Outcomes," Mathematica Policy Research Reports db6c4204b8e1408bb0c6289ec, Mathematica Policy Research.
    9. David H. Autor & David Scarborough, 2008. "Does Job Testing Harm Minority Workers? Evidence from Retail Establishments," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 123(1), pages 219-277.
    10. repec:mpr:mprres:2951 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:

    1. Yang, Crystal S., 2017. "Local labor markets and criminal recidivism," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 147(C), pages 16-29.
    2. Ergungor, O. Emre & Oliver, Nelson, 2013. "The Employability of Returning Citizens Is Key to Neighborhood Revitalization," Economic Commentary, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, issue 11.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J7 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor Discrimination

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