Without jobs to pay for shelter and food, ex-offenders are more likely to be arrested for reoffending.
The national unemployment rate is 3.9 percent, but according to Forbes, between 60 and 75 percent of ex-criminals are unemployed. Without employment, ex-offenders are unable to pay to support themselves. This can foster a hopeless mindset and lead to crime. This is considered the cycle of recidivism.
Recidivism is when ex-convicts reoffend. According to the Office of Justice Programs, after five years of release, about 77 percent of people are rearrested.
The manager of Community Corrections for the State of Arizona Department of Corrections Holly Dorman, said that if ex-offenders do not have employment 25 to 35 days after release, they will usually start to slip back into a life of crime.
“If they don’t get that first piece rolling then it starts to snowball in a negative way so if they were able to get a job fairly quickly then that kind of helps with their self-esteem,” Dorman said. “When things don’t go the way they think it should, they start slipping back.”
When unemployment goes up, so do crime rates and the same is to be said for ex-offender unemployment and recidivism. Employment is an important step for ex-offenders to conquer, because according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, 93 percent of ex-offenders who found employment shortly after prison never returned.
Donna Leone Hamm is the executive director of the non-profit Middle Ground Prison Reform Inc. and a former lower court judge in Arizona. She works closely with ex-offenders.
“Anyone who is working at a job and helping to support their family or themselves is going to have a higher level of energy, self-esteem and self-worth than someone who is utterly unable to do so,” Leone Hamm said. “When a person is busy with prosocial work prosocial post-work activity that leads to someone who is not going to reoffend and commit new crimes.”
Ex-offenders have to identify themselves on job applications and according to the National Institute of Justice, more than 80 percent of U.S. employers check for criminal backgrounds.
One reason why employers are hesitant to hire an ex-offender is because they fear they will commit a crime again.
Leone Hamm said that the vast majority of people who are released from prison want to do the work to support their families and do not want to go to back to prison.
“What we tell them is, ‘If you or I are equally qualified in terms of job skills and experience and I don’t have a felony record and you have one, then I may have to only submit 15 applications before I get a job offer and you may have to submit 115,’” Leone Hamm said. “It’s a numbers game.”
A new problem for ex-offenders is the online application process that some jobs require. With computers and smart phones being relatively new technology, ex-offenders need to learn or relearn how to use them before they begin to apply.
Most prisons do have workshops and classes to teach the inmates skills for when they are released. Most of these classes revolve around manual labor. There is also opportunity for inmates to take earn their GED diploma.