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Redemption & Certificates of Rehabilitation - 2. Research

Lundquist, Jennifer, Pager, Devah and Eiko Strader.

The study ‘Does a Criminal Past Predict Worker Performance? Evidence from America’s Largest Employer,’ co-authored by Harvard sociologist Devah Pager with Jennifer Lundquist and Eiko Strader from UMass Amherst, used U.S. military data for 1.3 million soldiers – both ex-offenders and non-offenders – who enlisted between 2002 and 2009. The study evaluated the work performance of ex-offenders re-entering the job market and found ex-offenders were no more likely than other enlistees to be discharged for negative reasons such as misconduct or poor performance. These ex-offenders were also promoted at a slightly higher rate and to higher ranks than non-offenders with no criminal record.

Kurlychek, Mega C., Robert Brame and Shawn D. Bushway.

Criminal record checks are being used increasingly by decision makers to predict future unwanted behaviors. A central question these decision makers face is how much time it takes before offenders can be considered “redeemed” and resemble nonoffenders in terms of the probability of offending. Building on a small literature addressing this topic for youthful, first time offenders, the current article asks whether this period differs across the age of last conviction and the total number of prior convictions. Using long-term longitudinal data on a Dutch conviction cohort, we find that young novice offenders are redeemed after approximately 10 years of remaining crime free. For older offenders, the redemption period is considerably shorter. Offenders with extensive criminal histories, however, either never resemble their nonconvicted counterparts or only do so after a crime-free period of more than 20 years. 

Prescott, J.J., Starr, Sonja B.

Laws permitting the expungement of criminal convictions are a key component of modern criminal justice reform efforts and have been the subject of a recent upsurge of legislative activity. This debate has been almost entirely devoid of evidence about the laws’ effects, in part because the necessary data (such as sealed records themselves) have been unavailable. We were able to obtain access to deidentified data that overcomes that problem, and we use it to carry out a comprehensive statewide study of expungement recipients and comparable non-recipients. We offer three key sets of empirical findings. First, among those legally eligible for expungement, just 6.5% obtain it within five years of eligibility. Drawing on patterns in our data as well as interviews with expungement lawyers, we point to reasons for this serious “uptake gap.” Second, those who do obtain expungement have extremely low subsequent crime rates, comparing favorably to the general population—a finding that defuses a common public-safety objection to expungement laws. Third, those who obtain expungement experience a sharp upturn in their wage and employment trajectories; on average, within two years, wages go up by 25% versus the pre-expungement trajectory, an effect mostly driven by unemployed people finding jobs and very minimally employed people finding steadier or higher-paying work.

“As information technology has increased the accessibility of criminal-history records, and concern for negligent-hiring lawsuits has grown, criminal background checking has become an important part of the hiring process for most employers. As a result, there is a growing concern that a large number of individuals are handicapped in finding employment because of a stale criminal-history record. The current study is an extension of a NIJ-funded project intended to provide the empirical estimates of what we call “redemption time,” the time when an individual with a prior arrest record has stayed clean of further involvement with the criminal justice system sufficiently long to be considered “redeemed” and relieved of the stale burden of a prior criminal-history record. In the current study, we address new issues that that are important in moving the research on redemption forward and making the findings applicable to relevant policy” (p. ii). Sections following an abstract include: introduction; robustness of redemption patterns; concern about the “next crime”; race and recidivism risk in the context of redemption; conclusions and next steps; and outreach—dissemination of these robust findings.

Extension of Current Estimates of Redemption Times: Robustness Testing, Out–of-State Arrests, and Racial Differences Cover

Blusmstein, Alfred and Kiminori Nakamura.

While this is a fairly statistical driven study, it is one of the few that takes a close look at criminal background checks and their negative impact on employment. The authors intend 'to provide guidance on the possibility of 'redemption,' (which [they] define as the process of lifting the burden of the prior record), and to provide guidance on how one may estimate when such redemption is appropriate' (p. 2). Before a detailed analysis of this study's data, an introduction covers the prevalence of criminal background checking and criminal records and the relevance of criminal history. The report then examines redemption and follows with a discussion of policy implications. At a certain point the individual that had a criminal record is of no greater risk than someone without a record. This moment is called 'redemption time' and is based on variables related to the individual offender.

National Institute of Corrections Information Center.

This document provides an overview of redemption research in the criminal justice system and includes an annotated bibliography of pertinent literature.

Ritter, Nancy.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have developed a method for computing the point in time when a person with a criminal record presents no greater risk of committing another crime than people in the general population.

Peter Leasure & Tia Stevens Andersen

Obtaining employment is difficult for ex-offenders due to the stigma of having a criminal record. In recognition of this difficulty, some state legislatures have created certificates of relief (also known as certificates of recovery), which lift occupational licensing restrictions, limit employer liability for negligent hiring claims, and aim to ensure that employment decisions about certificate holders are made on a case-by-case basis. The current study, which examines Ohio’s program for certificates of relief, presents the results of the first empirical test of the effectiveness of such certificates. This test indicates that having a certificate of relief increases the likelihood of receiving an interview invitation or job offer more than threefold. Importantly, certificate holders and their counterparts with clean criminal backgrounds were nearly equally likely to receive an interview invitation or job offer. These promising preliminary results suggest certificates of relief may be an effective avenue for lessening the stigma of a criminal record for ex-offenders seeking employment.

Bushway, Shawn D., Nieuwbeerta, Paul, Blokland, Arjan

Criminal record checks are being used increasingly by decision makers to predict future unwanted behaviors. A central question these decision makers face is how much time it takes before offenders can be considered “redeemed” and resemble nonoffenders in terms of the probability of offending. Building on a small literature addressing this topic for youthful, first-time offenders, the current article asks whether this period differs across the age of last conviction and the total number of prior convictions. Using long-term longitudinal data on a Dutch conviction cohort, we find that young novice offenders are redeemed after approximately 10 years of remaining crime free. For older offenders, the redemption period is considerably shorter. Offenders with extensive criminal histories, however, either never resemble their nonconvicted counterparts or only do so after a crime-free period of more than 20 years. Practical and theoretical implications of these findings are discussed.

Bucknor, Cherries and Alan Barber. Center for Economic and Policy Research.

This report the estimates the impact of non-working felons on the employment rate and the cost to the annual GDP. Assuming a mid-range 12 percentage-point employment penalty for this population, this report finds that there was a 0.9 to 1.0 percentage-point reduction in the overall employment rate in 2014, equivalent to the loss of 1.7 to 1.9 million workers. In terms of the cost to the economy as a whole, this suggests a loss of about $78 to $87 billion in annual GDP.

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