The article, titled “Barriers to Prisoners’ Reentry into the Labor Market and the Social Costs of Recidivism”, sets out to evaluate the impact of a prison record/experience on former inmates’ opportunity of getting employed in either high-end or low-end labor markets. The author puts forth arguments from the demand and supply sides of the labor market paradigm to demonstrate the barriers that former inmates’ face in their quest to reenter the job market, as well as how these barriers contribute to increased cases of recidivism. Clearly, the article demonstrates the importance for all stakeholders to embrace effective reentry programs for former inmates, with the view to enabling them find employment and hence reduce recidivism.
Description of the Research Problem
The underlying research problem which the author attempts to address is the misalignment between current reentry policies as illustrated within the U.S. criminal justice system and opportunities available for former inmates to reenter into the labor market, hence minimizing recidivism (Weiman, 2007).
The author does not conduct a primary research but rather uses primary sources (mostly surveys) to conduct a quantitative empirical analysis of the barriers to prisoners’ reentry into the labor system as well as the social costs of recidivism.
Contributions to the Literature
The article analyzes the problems affecting former inmates as they attempt to get absorbed into the labor market. Problems from the supply side of the labor market include deficits and challenges in behavior, lack of educational background and work experience, and negative stereotyping by neighbors and community. To better prepare prisoners to deal with these challenges, Gottschall and Armour (2011) advocate for local- and state-level corroboration, effective offender risk assessment, and graduated responses to criminal activity, whereas Pinard (2010) emphasizes the development and implementation of correctional facility reentry units that will permit returning offenders to better prepare for release close to their communities.
The problems noted from the demand side of the labor market include employers’ negative reactions to prison record and complex legal environment requiring firms not to employ people with prison records (Weiman, 2007). This view is reinforced in the literature by Luther et al (2011), who acknowledge that many small-time offenders are driven back into crime by a society that is unresponsive to their needs, including the need to be employed. Pager (2006) opines that crime and recidivism are social constructs fueled by the same processes and systems that have been put in place to eliminate them.
The article provides a breakdown of total social costs of recidivism to include
- additional harm from post-release activity,
- administrative costs associated with subsequent activity due to recidivism,
- years of life lost during imprisonment,
- disruptions to and burdens on families,
- attrition of neighborhood social capital,
- political estrangement, and
- distrust of public authority (Weiman, 2007).
Another important contribution is that the War on Drugs policies have done more harm than good, particularly in turning an increasing number of small-time drug offenders into repeat hardcore offenders. Debate and discourse in criminology literature suggests that the 1973 Rockefeller Drug Laws help to not only fuel an unprecedented growth of individuals imprisoned in the U.S., but also to harden small-time offenders (Gottschall & Armour, 2011; Krontiris &Walter, 2010).
Still, the author rejects the claim made by a number of scholars that a prison record is a trajectory to secondary labor market; on the contrary, he suggests that a previous criminal record acts as “a profound institutional barrier that prevents those on the socioeconomic margin from getting their foot in the doors that lead out of the secondary labor market” (Weiman, 2007 p. 597). This view receives support from Wikoff et al (2012), who suggest that many employers in the formal labor market view a prison record as an end rather than a means to a career prospect for inmates, irrespective of level of education.
As already mentioned, the researcher relies on conducting an empirical analysis on other primary sources to investigate the topic. A more befitting method, however, would be to conduct an original primary research with all the parameters needed not only to enable him focus on is to be gathered to answer the study’s primary objectives (Singh, 2006).
The author’s approach to supporting the thesis makes sense, but he fails to effectively demonstrate how the problems in supply and demand sides of the labor market are related to instances of recidivism and the policies already put in place to fight recidivism. Indeed, although the article is robust in its attempt to demonstrate how problems in supply and demand sides of the labor market complicate issues for released prisoners as far as securing employment is concerned, it is weak in connecting these problems of reentry to policies that have already been put in place by various agencies to ensure successful reentry.
Moving on, it is clear that the researcher employs the methods for doing secondary research correctly. The researcher, in particular, acknowledges the sources of his information and also attempts to explain what he did with the data in the process of analysis. He also rightly separates the sources as surveys, audit reports and agency data, among others. The researcher skillfully follows the traditions for doing secondary research. However, he fails to elaborate where he got the sources from as well as the inclusion and exclusion criteria used.
Overall, the article is an eye-opener in terms of evaluating the problems that act as barriers to inmates’ reentry into the labor market from the demand as well as supply domains of the equilibrium.
Gottschall, J., & Armour, M. (2011). Second chance: Establishing a reentry program in the northern district of Illinois. DePaul Journal for Social Justice, 5(1), 31-69.
Luther, J.B., Reichert, E.S., Holloway, E.D., Roth, A.M., & Aaisma, M.C. (2011). An exploration of community reentry needs and services for prisoners: A focus on care to limit return to return high-risk behavior. Aids Patient Care and STDs, 25(8), 465-481.
Krontiris, K., & Walter, C. (2010). Rethinking prisoner reentry in Harlem. Harvard Journal of African American Public Policy, 16(1), 73-84.
Pager, D. (2006). Evidence-based polices for successful prisoner reentry. Criminology & Public Policy, 5(3), 505-514.
Pinard, M. (2010), Reflections and perspectives on reentry and collateral consequences. Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology, 100(3), 1213-1224.
Singh, Y.K. Fundamental of research methodology and statistics. New York, NY: New Age International.
Weiman, D.F. (2007). Barriers to prisoners’ reentry into the labor market and the social costs of recidivism. Social Research, 74(2), 575-611. Web.
Wikoff, N., Linhorst, D.M., & Morani, N. (2012). Recidivism among participants of a reentry program for prisoners released without supervision. Social Work Research, 36(4), 289-299.