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Investigating Prisoner Reentry: The Impact of Conviction Status on the Employment Prospects of Young Men

NCJ Number
Date Published
September 2009
136 pages
In order to identify the barriers facing ex-offenders who seek employment shortly after their release from prison, this study conducted a randomized field experiment in which matched teams of testers applied for hundreds of entry-level jobs in New York City, in order to determine how employers responded to applicants who were equally qualified but varied by race, ethnicity, and criminal record.
The study found a strong reluctance among employers to hire applicants with criminal records, especially Black ex-offenders; however, employment prospects improved significantly for applicants who had an opportunity to interact with the hiring manager, particularly when these interactions elicited sympathetic responses from the manager. Although individual characteristics of employers were significant for outcomes, researchers concluded that the personal interaction between the applicant and prospective employer was in itself a key factor in a successful hiring. Employer concerns about hiring ex-offenders included the risk of theft, violence, and drug use, as well as concerns about worker reliability and performance. An employer's personal interaction with ex-offender applicants can help to relieve some of these concerns that stem from a stereotypical view of ex-offenders. Blacks were significantly less likely to be invited to a personal interview by employers. These findings point to the importance of rapport-building and personal interaction between prospective employers and ex-offender applicants. Also, preparatory work with employers should focus on defusing the stereotypical stigmatization of ex-offenders, providing information to employers on the rehabilitation successes and vocational training of particular ex-offenders that matches employer needs, and the enlisting of labor market intermediaries who can vouch for the qualifications of individual ex-offender job applicants. The audit study of team experiences was complemented with a telephone survey of the employers visited and in-depth qualitative interviews with an additional subset of employers. 8 figures, 2 tables, and appended supplementary data, information, and references

Date Published: September 1, 2009