Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Enhancing the Career Development of Individuals Who Have Criminal Records

Academic journal article Career Development Quarterly

Enhancing the Career Development of Individuals Who Have Criminal Records

Article excerpt

Large numbers of individuals are involved in the criminal justice system. Upon release, most have difficulty finding employment and stabilizing economic resources, which contribute to recidivism. To date, the role of work in the lives of ex-offenders has virtually been ignored in the vocational literature. The purpose of this article is to increase awareness of this group by highlighting vocational implications of having a criminal record; reviewing existing interventions demonstrated to be beneficial (e.g., teaching skills prior to release, restorative justice interventions); and providing suggestions to more readily include this group in future practice, research, and policy.

Approximately 1 in 31 people in the United States were on parole or probation or were in jail Or prison (federal or state) in 2004 (U.S. Department of Justice, 2005); a disproportionate number of these individuals arc members of underrcpresented racial/ethnic groups (Harrison & Beck, 2005). O'Brien (2002) asserted that upon release, most individuals who have criminal records (known as ex-offenders) have difficulty finding employment and are therefore unable to stabilize economic resources and become reintegrated into society. A number of researchers (e.g., Bradley, 1985; Menon, Blakely, Carmichael, & Snow, 1995; O'Brien, 2002) have documented that this inability to gain employment upon release is related to increased rates of recidivism. Others (e.g., Filella-Guiu & Blanch-Piana, 2002; Menon et al., 1995) have argued that the transition from incarceration to society is a crucial time for ex-offenders that may be significantly affected by whether they secure stable employment.

Some prerelease career development program research (e.g., Vernick ck Reardon, 2001), postrelease employment program research (e.g., Chartrand & Rose, 1996), and research (e.g., O'Brien, 2001; Schaefer, Friedlander, Blustein, & Maruna, 2004; Shivy et al., 2007) investigating the role of career in the lives of individuals with criminal records has been conducted. To date, however, ex-offenders have virtually been ignored in the vocational literature as well as in traditional theories of career development. Given the large number of ex-offenders being reintegrated into communities and the link between unemployment and recidivism, there is a sizable population of men and women who are in need of services from career counselors. The purpose of this article, therefore, is to increase knowledge and awareness by (a) highlighting some implications of having a criminal record; (b) reviewing existing pre- and postrelease vocational interventions for ex-offenders in an effort to identify strategies that have been demonstrated to be beneficial; and (c) providing avenues to better include this population in practice, research, and policy initiatives. Although the consequences of crimes differ as a result of a number of factors, for the purposes of this article, we are referring broadly to individuals who are convicted of a crime and have a misdemeanor or felony criminal record.

Implications of Having a Criminal Record for Ex-Offenders

Researchers from a number of disciplines (e.g., Bazemore & Stinchcomb, 2004; Bradley, 1985; Chartrand & Rose, 1996; Cooke, 2004; Harris & Keller, 2005; Hölzer, Raphael, & Stoll, 2003; McMurray, 1993; Menon et al., 1995; O'Brien, 2001, 2002; Petersilia, 2001; Rakis, 2005; Schaefer et al., 2004; Shivy et al., 2007) have long attempted to understand the implications of having a criminal record on the social adjustment and employment potential of individuals. These researchers (e.g., Chartrand & Rose, 1996; Harris & Keller, 2005; Pager & Quillian, 2005; Petersilia, 2001) have demonstrated that ex-offenders face considerable stigma, both overtly and covertly, from the community at large as well as from potential employers, which contributes to difficulty obtaining and maintaining employment. …

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