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After Prison: Navigating Employment and Reintegration

By Rose Ricciardelli and Adrienne M. F. Peters (Eds.)
Waterloo, ON: Wilfrid Laurier University Press. 2017.

Based on the experiences of Ricciardelli and Peters at a day reporting center in a large Canadian city, After Prison: Navigating Employment and Reintegration provides “insights into the realities of creating, seeking and finding work after imprisonment” (p. 2).  Employment is the main focus of the book for several reasons.  Firstly, employment affects other aspects of integration and desistance.  Secondly, the editors witnessed the effects of employment on parolees’ sense of self-worth and willingness to stay in the community.  Thirdly, while most offenders will return to the community, employment barriers often hinder them from becoming productive members of society.

After a brief introduction to the relationship between incarceration and employment, the book is divided into four sections:

Section I – The employment re-entry enigma/dilemma
Section II – Criminal histories, employment prospects, and moving forward
Section III – Employment reintegration programming: Supportive strategies and related outcomes
Section IV – The employment reintegration of unique populations

In the conclusion, the editors provide several classical sociological theories that support the importance of employment for reintegration and desistance.

Section one opens with a case study of an ex-offender on parole after serving 20 years of a life sentence.  The challenges of finding and keeping employment are discussed through his real-life experiences.  The relationship between employment and desistance from crime is based on the numerous benefits employment provides the ex-offender.  Employment is often the central source of identity for the individual and provides a positive way for the individual to contribute to society, develop a sense of purpose, and provide for themselves and family.  Section one closes with a look at the specific benefits employment can offer ex-offenders who are mentally ill, including a connection to the community and sense of accomplishment.

The second section looks at the Canadian pardon system’s recent changes and the negative impacts these changes are having on ex-offenders.  Comparisons are also made between Canada’s system and similar systems in Australia, France, England, the Netherlands, Germany, and Spain.  The “Ban the Box” movement in the United States is also discussed.  Looking at barriers to employment, Chapter 5 examines a longitudinal study conducted by Ricciardelli and Mooney who interviewed 24 ex-offenders in Ontario, Canada looking at their personal experiences and challenges with reintegration.  Little to no previous job experience, having a criminal record, parole and residency conditions, and readiness to return to employment were the main challenges.

Section three looks at reintegration programming.  First, Harmon, Hickman, Arneson, and Hansen (Ch. 6) examined employment maintenance between employees with a criminal record and those without a criminal record.  Next, Hough (Ch. 7) described a proposed evaluation of an offender rehabilitation program in England.  The program was to be delivered by a third-party organization but, as England restructured rehabilitation services, the use of third-party organizations was limited resulting in the program ending.  Peters (Ch. 8) examined youth in the criminal justice system in Canada and their unique barriers to employment post-release.  Section three concludes with a review of interventions used to support ex-offenders.  The Risk-Need-Responsivity model, Good Lives Model, and variations of the two are discussed.

The book closes with a look at two unique populations of ex-offenders: the homeless and wrongfully convicted.  Spencer (Ch. 10) conducted 70 interviews with homeless male ex-offenders looking at the challenges they face finding and keeping employment.  Clow (Ch. 11) conducted a study to examine how employers view a wrongfully convicted applicant versus one with a conviction, with a gap in employment, and against a control applicant.

This collection of articles examines employment after incarceration on various subjects in Canada, the United States, and other Western countries.  The authors assume a basic understanding of criminal justice terminology which may hinder some readers.  This collection of articles would be a useful addition to any criminal justice class examining probation or parole, recidivism, or offenders post-release.  Individuals working with ex-offenders would also benefit from the program and case management styles described and from understanding the unique struggles ex-offenders face.

SARA DEFFENDOLL
Capella University

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