Marked: Race, Crime, and Finding Work in an Era of Mass Incarceration

Marked: Race, Crime, and Finding Work in an Era of Mass Incarceration

Marked: Race, Crime, and Finding Work in an Era of Mass Incarceration

Marked: Race, Crime, and Finding Work in an Era of Mass Incarceration

Synopsis

Nearly every job application asks it: have you ever been convicted of a crime? For the hundreds of thousands of young men leaving American prisons each year, their answer to that question may determine whether they can find work and begin rebuilding their lives. The product of an innovative field experiment,Markedgives us our first real glimpse into the tremendous difficulties facing ex-offenders in the job market. Devah Pager matched up pairs of young men, randomly assigned them criminal records, then sent them on hundreds of real job searches throughout the city of Milwaukee. Her applicants were attractive, articulate, and capable- yet ex-offenders received less than half the callbacks of the equally qualified applicants without criminal backgrounds. Young black men, meanwhile, paid a particularly high price: those with clean records fared no better in their job searches than white men just out of prison. Such shocking barriers to legitimate work, Pager contends, are an important reason that many ex-prisoners soon find themselves back in the realm of poverty, underground employment, and crime that led them to prison in the first place. "Using scholarly research, field research in Milwaukee, and graphics, [Pager] shows that ex-offenders, white or black, stand a very poor chance of getting a legitimate job.... Both informative and convincing."- Library Journal "Markedis that rare book: a penetrating text that rings with moral concern couched in vivid prose- and one of the most useful sociological studies in years."- Michael Eric Dyson

Excerpt

It was late in the day when Darrell finally made it back home, tired, hot, and utterly worn out. It had been over 90 degrees and humid all week, making it unpleasant just to be outside. But Darrell had woken up early each morning, put on a freshly ironed shirt, collected a set of résumés in his file folder, and set off to find a job. He had visited about three or four employers each day that week, driving up and down the highways of Milwaukee to track down the latest job opening. When he arrived at businesses, he was usually greeted with a flat stare, handed an application form, and told to wait for a callback. Darrell had yet to receive calls from any of the employers he had visited that week. Over fifteen applications submitted, and not one single shot at a job.

That day Darrell had had a particularly unpleasant experience. He had visited a local supermarket to apply for a job as a cashier. Darrell was caught off guard when the manager asked bluntly, “Do you have any convictions on your record?” Darrell wasn't expecting the question up-front like that. He was dressed neatly and presented himself well, but he hadn't had the chance to say more than a few words before the manager's question forced him to admit that, yes, he did have a criminal background. He had recently served time for a felony drug possession charge. The manager grudgingly allowed him to leave his résumé, but Darrell could tell that he had no chance of getting the job.

Darrell could have been any one of the hundreds of thousands of young . . .

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