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Changes in Criminal Offending Around the Time of Job Entry: A Study of Employment and Desistance

NCJ Number
Criminology Volume: 52 Issue: 2 Dated: May 2014 Pages: 263-291
Torbjorn Skardhamar; Jukka Savolainen
Date Published
May 2014
29 pages

This Norwegian study examined the role of employment in promoting desistance from crime, specifically whether desistance from crime tends to precede or follow stable employment.


The study results show that most offenders desisted from crime prior to their transition into stable employment, consistent with the maturation perspective, and becoming employed was not associated with further reductions in criminal behavior. On the other hand, the study identified a subset of offenders who became employed during an active phase of their criminal careers and experienced subsequent substantial reductions in criminal offending; however, this trajectory was evident in less than 2 percent of the sample. Thus, the dominant finding of this study is that stable employment is generally the result of a prior commitment to desistence from offending rather than a cause of desistence from offending. This is consistent with the maturation perspective. The study focused on a sample of recidivist males who became employed during 2001-2006 (n=783). Smoothing spline regression techniques were used to model changes in criminal offending close to the point of entry into stable employment. The authors speculate that the failure to find more substantial support for the employment effect is related to the study's inability to distinguish between "good" and "bad" jobs. Jobs are expected to influence the desistance process only if they build an attachment to behavioral norms. These findings are similar to those of studies conducted in other countries, including Finland, the Netherlands, and various jurisdictions of the United States. 7 figures, 1 table, and 51 references