Academic journal article International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences

Race, Education, Employment, and Recidivism among Offenders in the United States: An Exploration of Complex Issues in the Indianapolis Metropolitan Area

Academic journal article International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences

Race, Education, Employment, and Recidivism among Offenders in the United States: An Exploration of Complex Issues in the Indianapolis Metropolitan Area

Article excerpt

Introduction

While responding to a high crime rate in urban communities, local criminal justice agencies have increasingly arrested those who violate the law, and incarcerated them in state correctional facilities. Even though the overall prison population in the United States declined for the first time since 1972, the number of ex-offenders returning to their communities located in metropolitan areas dramatically increased in recent years. However, local governments generally lacked resources to support offender reentry initiatives in these metropolitan areas (Guerino, et al., 2012). Previous researchers (Rossman & Roman, 2003; Uggen, 2000; Vacca, 2004; Visher, et al., 2005) identified a variety of factors, such as educational deficiency, lack of job skills, criminal history, housing accommodations, employment opportunities, or deteriorating neighborhoods, that might significantly contribute to a relatively high recidivism rate among ex-offenders.

Upon release from prison, the most challenging obstacle released offenders have to overcome is to successfully reenter the labor market (i.e., find a job). Quite often, the offender's criminal record becomes a significant barrier to employment because employers are reluctant to hire ex-offenders (Giguere & Dundes, 2002; Gunnison & Helfgott, 2010; Lukies, et al., 2011). Additionally, ex-offenders generally lack up-to-date job skills or education to meet the job demands from a variety of industrial sectors after a relatively long period of time of incarceration. Post-release employment is consistently perceived as the most influential factor on an offender's reentry into the community and recidivism as well (Lockwood, et al., 2015, 2012; Nally, et al., 2014(a), 2014(b), 2012). Nonetheless, there is little research demonstrating a systematic analysis of such complex issues as an offender's race and education associated with post-release employment and recidivism for those offenders who return to a metropolitan area after release from prison. The main focus of the present study intends to explore the interrelationships and racial disparities (or similarities) in post-release employment and recidivism, while controlling for an offender's level of formal education, among ex-offenders who returned to the Indianapolis metropolitan area after release from prison.

Impacts of Ex-Offenders on Urban Communities

A consistent finding indicates that residential segregation and economic inequality have exerted significant impacts on racial disparities in recidivism among ex-offenders when they returned to their neighborhoods in metropolitan areas after release from prison (Chamberlain & Wallace, 2015; Like, 2011; Reisig, et al., 2007; Wang, et al., 2010; Wehrman, 2010). Due to an array of underlying socio-economic problems in urban communities, ex-offenders, African American ex-offenders, in particular, would likely have a higher recidivism rate because they would usually return to neighborhoods saturated with poverty, unemployment, and crime. Specifically, post-release recidivism was significantly correlated with unemployment among ex-offenders (Blomberg, et al., 2012; Burke & Vivian, 2001; La Vigne, et al., 2008; Lockwood, et al., 2015; Steurer & Smith, 2003; Uggen, 2000). In other words, ex-offenders would exacerbate the crime problems in urban neighborhoods if there were insufficient supporting mechanisms to assist their reentry into those communities upon release from prison.

Undoubtedly, the impacts of crime on residents and businesses in urban communities are very significant and consequential. One principal cause of the decline of the quality of life among residents living in urban communities in metropolitan areas is "fear of crime" (DeLone, 2008; Jackson & Stafford, 2009; Jacson & McLoyd, 2015; Latkin & Curry, 2003; Snedker, 2015). Latkin and Curry (2003) indicated that "fear of crime" could also exert a corrosive effect on mental health among residents, the elderly, in particular, due to their fear of being victimized in urban residential neighborhoods. …

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