U.S. flag

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

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Reducing Recidivism Through Work: Barriers and Opportunities for Employment of Ex-Offenders

NCJ Number
Svenja Heinrich
Date Published
September 2000
28 pages
This paper identifies the obstacles faced by ex-offenders in securing gainful employment and presents strategies that will better meet the employment needs of ex-offenders.
Information on the barriers to employment for ex-offenders was obtained from the available secondary literature and includes findings of several focus groups that involved ex-offenders and potential employers initiated by the University of Illinois at Chicago's Great Cities Institute as part of its Chicago Workforce Development Partnership project. This study found that ex-offenders' search for employment is impeded by a number of factors in addition to the stigma of a criminal record. Barriers to employment include employers' attitudes, legal barriers, education and financial obstacles, substance abuse, mental illness, and difficulties in finding stable housing. Given the steady increase in the prison population and the associated growth in the number of ex-offenders returning to their communities, community organizations must be prepared to serve the needs of unemployed ex-offenders. This study profiles a number of model programs that have key elements that contribute to the effective transition of ex-offenders into society. These key elements are as follows: a holistic array of services, initiation of services before offenders are released, the development of long-term relationships with potential employers, incentives for employers to recruit and hire ex-offenders, and the performance of long-term follow-up. Policy challenges are to improve prerelease services to inmates so they are adequately prepared for their job searches upon release, re-examine State statutes that require employers to bar ex-offenders from certain professions, monitor the implementation of the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), review the impact of new welfare legislation on the resources available to ex-offenders immediately upon release, and promote alternative sentencing strategies with a strong employment and training emphasis. 13 references and 30 notes