Christopher and Jeremy Staff.
2001. “Work as a Turning Point for Criminal Offenders.” Corrections Management Quarterly 5:1-16.
[Reprinted 2003 in Crime and Employment: Critical Issues in Crime Reduction for Corrections, edited by Jessie L. Krienert and Mark S. Fleisher. Rowman and Littlefield].
This paper considers whether employment is a "turning point" in the lives of criminal offenders. We present a brief overview of research on the relationship between work and crime, centering on three basic questions: (1) Are job programs more effective for older than for younger offenders? (2) Are ex-offenders who get “good jobs” more likely to desist from crime than those who get marginal work? And, (3) can work programs reduce drug use or the economic crime associated with drug use for ex-addicts? We briefly explain each research problem, outline previous program evaluations and research, and then provide provisional answers with some illustrative evidence. Our review suggests that work programs appear to be more effective for adult offenders than for adolescents and young adults. The quality of employment also appears to be important for reducing recidivism, although it is difficult to make definitive causal inferences based on observational evidence from existing studies. Finally, we find that work-based programs can reduce arrest rates for ex-addicts, but appear to be less effective in reducing future substance use. We conclude with several unanswered questions and directions for future research.