Real and Perceived Employment Barriers and Offender Employment Histories

Meridith Thanner, University of Maryland at College Park
Faye S. Taxman, University of Maryland at College Park

Offenders face a multitude of individual and structural level barriers to obtaining sustainable employment. How these 'real' barriers are in fact perceived to be obstacles to employment by offenders has important implications for the design and delivery of offender job and reentry programs. As part of an evaluation of a state supported community and institutional job readiness program, we sought to identify and evaluate specific individual and structural characteristics perceived by offenders to be and not to be barriers to obtaining legitimate employment. Participants completed a self-administered baseline survey and a job readiness pre-test and post-test (follow-up interviews are in progress). Preliminary analyses of baseline findings indicate that nearly half of the sample did not perceive their level of education (39%), their criminal history (43%) or their incarceration history (54%) to be a barrier to obtaining employment. Further, there is a sizable perception gap between offenders in the under 30 group as compared to those in the older group with respect to the perception that incarceration history is not a barrier to obtaining employment (63% to 49%) -- striking findings considering what researchers and job readiness educators have found and report to be significant barriers to employment.

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Updated 05/20/2006