U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Economics and Unemployment - Some New Perspectives (From Employment Crime and Policy Issues, P 59-72, 1982, Leon Leiberg, ed. - See NCJ-87219)

NCJ Number
G S Funke
Date Published
This paper examines reasons why programs designed to address unemployment and crime problems have failed, with attention to theory, research findings, and nontraditional strategies involving the private sector.
The 1960's economic model viewed crime as an additional component of an individual's array of income-producing activities. Other factors affecting the unemployment-crime relationship are family and education. Early employment programs for ex-offenders were not designed around a particular model but supported this theorizing and suggested variations that could be incorporated into programs, such as the need for different approaches at different stages in the criminal justice system. Programs which tried to apply some version of the economic model included the Free Venture prison industries model, the Living Insurance for Ex-Prisoners, and Transitional Aid Research Project. These have been less than successful possibly because existing theoretical and empirical knowledge was not used in program designs. Certain operating assumptions should be reevaluated, including viewing unemployment as the sole cause of crime, focusing on the labor supply rather than employers, relying on the public sector, and applying a middle-class mentality to programs for hard-to-place persons. Programs are recommended that involve the private sector, change to demand-side strategies, and emphasize work rather than rehabilitation. For example, prison industries should be run more like business than corrections programs, and financial incentives should be given to employers who hire ex-offenders. The article contains 29 footnotes.