Barriers to the Rehabilitation of Ex-Offenders
AbstractA person's identity—both in his own eyes and in the eyes o f others—is very often tied to his occupation. One's job may determine to a large extent the kind and quality of life one leads. In penology and correction, therefore, as in perhaps all the social sciences, the function and availability of employ ment are o f great concern. According to some analysts, gain ful employment is perhaps the most important ingredient needed to help ex-offenders pursue law-abiding, productive lives; unemployment is one of the principal causes of recidi vism among adult male offenders. Yet, despite popular sentiment regarding the desirability o f giving "a second chance" to the person with a criminal re cord, socially imposed and almost insurmountable barriers prevent him from obtaining productive and rehabilitative employment. Employers resist hiring ex-offenders because of perceived security risks that are often more imaginary than real. More often than not, an ex-offender cannot be bonded by the private bonding industry. Under the terms of a standard "blanket" bond—the only type of bonding appropriate to many large operations and available at a price the employer can afford—an employer's insurance coverage is specifically voided if he knowingly hires any person having a criminal record. Finally, under misguided statutes ostensibly enacted to protect the public from criminal depredations, ex-offenders may be excluded from service in government and a myriad of "licensed occupations." This paper discusses these so-called "legal" barriers to the employment of ex-offenders. Its conclusion is that the attempt to protect against crime by denying ex-offenders gainful employment not only makes a mockery o f the concept of equal opportunity for all but costs us dearly in recidivist crime.